by David J Opdyke, AmbiEntrance
Before the melding of tribal beats with electronic wizardry, there were the spacious atmospheres of synth and sequencer; Steve Roach originally released the energetic STORMWARNING in 1989, and now offers an expanded (three "days" instead of only two) re-release. And 10 years later... it's still a dazzling display. These are fairly lengthy live tracks, recorded without the aid of backup tapes, overdubs or remixing (and engineered by this month's interviewee, Loren Nerell). Not as crisply pristine as his early studio work (like STRUCTURES FROM SILENCE), a certain small amount of edginess runs through these pieces, adding to their decidedly "weather-like" atmospherics. It seems incredible that the multiple levels of vigorously intricate sonic activity were performed by one man in one session.
After a seven-minute intro of organically wafting layers, "Day One" receives wave after wave of super-arpeggiated cycles trilling over streaming beds of synth strata. Equally rapid drumbeats are interwoven between passages, and meandering bell-like tones play over the rolling patterns. The rollicking soundwaves begin to subside, leaving a calmer, though still actively whirling stratosphere.
Darkly gathering swells signal the dawn of "Day Two" (30:16), eventually overtaken by a rhythmic shower of rapid-fire notes through which rays of denser synth shines. Light e-percussion accents the continually evolving flow. Through energetic keyboarding, certain passages attain a moodily soaring atmosphere, sometimes surging, other times receding. As the piece reaches its twilight, everything has hushed and slowed to a more restful pace.
In 1991, during Roach's first concert tour in Germany, "Day Three" (21:02) was documented, with acknowledgment of influence going out to Klaus Schulze. Smooth gusts blow in over a lush synthstream which is stirred by a loping, rhythmic pattern and intertwined with sinuous threads. Less aggressive than the previous pieces, the track still manages to work up a fair amount of energy, gradually slowing to a plodding replica of its maximum pace, still infused with gusty streamers of light synth.
Certainly worthy of re-release, STORMWARNING is a dramatic panorama from Steve Roach's earlier days. Even if they've heard it before, Roach fans can experience the addition of a new track, and the unexposed have everything to gain. Analog aficionados will definitely find a lot to love, too. While I'm personally more fond of Roach's later ethno-tribal influences, I'm bestowing an 8.4 rating for these impressive synthstorms.