Vine ~ Bark & Spore
by Richard di Santo, Incursion
Steve Roach has been captivating fans of ambient music for years; his passion for creating evocative and complex sonic structures has fostered his commendable and pioneering output, often transcending the clichés of "ethnoambient" and moving into more adventurous territory (and for this, he shares a similar stage with Vidna Obmana, his longtime friend and collaborator). This new release, on his own Timeroom Editions label, is a collaboration with Jorge Reyes, best known for his ethnomusicological approach to music making with a special emphasis on indigenous and shamanic traditions from his native Mexico. It was good to hear from Reyes again, after he has spent some years in relative obscurity (once a very active composer / musician, he hasn't released a project in years). If you are at all familiar with the work of these artists, you will recognise that all of the elements are here on this new album. From Reyes: traditional percussions, body rhythms, vocals and flutes. From Roach: haunting echoes, beautiful synths and ambience. These elements flirt with each other and blend seamlessly in these seven long pieces (over 70 minutes worth in total). Rhythms rise and fall; they carry you on their backs and take you to strange and wonderful places full of mystery and tradition. Although there are a few stronger rhythms here ("The Holy Dirt" and the incredible "Healing Temple"), mostly the mood is more suggestive than it is direct. Rhythms are implied, movements alluded to, the sounds of the rainstick, the striking of drums, distant chants, drifting harmonics, echoes of voices and songs from the past all lend a fabulous mystique to this music. The disc ends with a final flutter of percussion from Reyes disappearing into the silence. This album carries a fitting epigraph (with the same alliterative charm as "the medium is the message"), always known and yet it seems long forgotten: "the music is the medicine".