by Stephanie Sollow, Progressive World
If you live in more northern or cooler climes, you probably have never experienced overly warm days, where the air is so thick it's like being wrapped in a blanket from head to toe - we'll, if it's a hot, humid day. If you have, then you know what Steve Roach is getting at.
Normally, the warmer it is (at night), the more chirpy crickets are, but even at extreme temperatures, the crickets find it too hot to chirp - or so it would seem.
It is just such a thing that Steve Roach had in mind as he was composing this piece. To wit, he says in the liner notes:
"SLOW HEAT evolved from the atmosphere of my desert habitat [Arizona]. There are certain times of the day wjem everything falls silent, as if the birds, the cicadas, and even the trees are under the spell of the heat. It's a stillness that ebbs and flows in slow, simmering waves..."
SLOW HEAT is nothing new for Steve Roach stylistically. It doesn't really broaden the pallet he uses and has uses, but the effect the music has does truly evoke the scene he's trying to create. Add in the chirps here and there, and you can picture this scene - hot, dry desert for miles, nothing visible on the horizon but low brush and cacti, maybe a few mesas in the distance, their strata bright orange and mellow yellow. The sky is cloudless, a pale blue that that has no definition.
I always find the best way to describe this kind of music is by the images it creates. Because there is very little variation in tone or colours, there isn't much to say that isn't true for the whole piece. The keyboard sound swirls about leisurely, undulating – a shallow breath as you listen to the silence, your body and mind at ease, the air-blanket feeling protective, not quite oppressive.
Because I have like nearly everything Steve Roach has done, I, of course, recommend it. He is such a skillful synthesist that even when he's playing a piece not unlike any of his others, there is a freshness to it. Perhaps it is just a subtle thing, a shift in emphasis to high light just the right mood. Whatever it is, those seeking out soundscapes need to add this to their collection.