Vine ~ Bark & Spore
by Gary Andrews
I always have a bit of difficulty when someone I meet starts to talk about tastes in music. They may mention popular acts like Sting, the in-vogue Britney Spears and the latest band who have been exalted to the dizzy heights of mass commercialisim and perhaps an all-too-brief public adulation, before they usually dissapear into the furnace of "has beens" or failed fashion icons lost to the vague ideals of what is in, and what is not.
So when I mention my choice Steve Roach, I usually get a quizzical look and then I have to try and describe his music, which can be a bit of a challenge. When I mention words like atmospheric, tribal ambient, electronic, etc., I get my listener even more perplexed as to what this music is all about. Usually if the participant is willing I may raid my music collection, and hand him or her several compact discs to sample. The resultant remarks always makes for interesting conversation. Some do not undestand at all, some smile weakly and say it was okay, and some come back to me full of praise eager to hear more; such are the vagaries of musical taste and expectation. Steve's music has never been "fashionable" but to people who know or the people who discover his music it remains a potent force in their listening world.
The guy’s been around twenty years or more developing and seeking out new ways to present music, and it's always a thrill to hear the latest album that has been created within Steve's desert studio in Tucson. It never ceases to amaze me how he can keep up the quality of music that he does. But it happens, and VINE ~ BARK AND SPORE is the latest chapter on a long road that has taken many twists and turns, but a road that seemingly has no end, and I for one am pleased at that.
VINE ~ BARK AND SPORE is an album that combines the best of Steve’s styles mixed together in a sonic cauldron of sounds that envisage past times, future experiences, thought, feelings of hope, and lost primal memories that can never again be fully regained. Playing with Steve on this album is renowned Mexican soundsmith Jorge Reyes, who adds his own individual brand of powerful chanting and assorted instrumentation including clay pots, flutes and whistles.
Although Steve provides most of the electronic soundworlds on this album, much of the albums strength lies in the two musicians playing and combining each others' musical traditions. In some instances Steve would play the ocarina, flutes, waterpots and stones, and Jorge would instigate the more electronic aspects of keyboard sound. The resulting cross-fertilization of instrument sculpting makes for an intoxicating brew of soundworlds, verging on an atmosphere that can only be compared to a participating in a shamans ritual. It is also a music that can invoke a mindful visual feedback within the listener; such is its potency in creating a musical whole.
If one looks back at musical tradition going back thousands of years, music was created to enter different states of consciousness when people invoked the gods and spirits that they needed to bring into their lives to perhaps reap a good harvest, or gain power over an enemy. A lot of music has lost this powerful, earthy feeling, but with an album like VINE ~ BARK AND SPORE it is fully reinstated. This is music as it should be, an intense experience, formulated to fit perfectly into a person's deep and hidden psyche that a lot of people prefer to keep hidden away from a modern world, but is always there no matter who we are.