by Darren Bergstein, Muze
On the CD insert, 'soma' is defined as a drink which could help one achieve empathy with the gods. SOMA, the musical document, might be that missing link between earth and the heavens. While STRATA, the first collaboration between Steve Roach and Robert Rich, sought to peel away the substratum layers of the inner consciousness, SOMA attempts to reconcile those emotions with the outer world through a wondrous, gripping corpus of sound. Utilizing a great assortment of synths, samplers, didgeridus, clay pots, rainsticks, rocks, ceramics, talking drums, guitars, flutes and programmed drums, Roach and Rich perform a stunning series of lively, aural mosaics that are like musical puzzle boxes with hundreds of oddly colored pieces. It is as if they tore up the veneer of the desert itself and constructed these sounds out of the earth's natural very fibre. "Nightshade" begins with some prehistoric-sounding synths, then gradually builds along a rhythmic foundation of rainsticks and sequencers. Like the best free jazz improvisers, Roach and Rich intuitively communicate their separate identities into one collective whole.