Streams & Currents
by John Darnielle, New Times L.A.
January 17, 2002
Like an evening in an immersion tank, Steve Roach's STREAMS & CURRENTS is something rather more easily experienced than described. Roach, a longtime fixture of the non-genre unfortunately saddled with the term new age, composes long, contemplative pieces in which very little movement takes place, making those few shifts that do occur all the more momentous. Here, everything's live, all terms being relative: Playing a guitar through various processors in his Tucson studio, Roach erects glacial sound-structures that don't fade into the background of whatever room they're playing in so much as they insinuate themselves into the nooks and crannies of the listener's consciousness. Listening to the 14-minute "Almost Touching" is like watching the moon rise; there's no audible inflection here, just the fluid trajectory of the piece's almost imperceptible development.
In place of normal compositional dynamics, STREAMS & CURRENTS offers a quiet but intense focus on the depth of the overall sounds in play. Much of the music in the New Age section of your local record store is little more than muted film soundtrack stuff, and you'd be better off eliminating the middleman and listening to the love theme from Spartacus. Roach is different, hunkering down with music's most basic elements and giving them ample room to breathe. It's the sort of music one could imagine as accompaniment for spelunking expeditions or deep-sea diving: slow, rich tones whose comings and goings occur unannounced, more felt than heard. Over repeated listenings, the album's six dreamlike pieces reveal subtle shadings and gradations of mood and texture. "Created for low volume continuous playback," reads the legend on the back of the CD case. Follow the directions, and you can't go far wrong.
|Streams & Currents|
2001 Projekt PRO128 (CD)
Reviewed by Alternate Music Press, Alternative Press, amazon.com, Ambient Visions, AmbiEntrance, EMR Electronic Music Reviews, Ink 19, New Times L.A., Sonic Curiosity, StarVox, Tower Pulse!, Tower Records epulse
STREAMS & CURRENTS creates a sanctuary that is rarely found in today's music. The perfect atmosphere for contemplation and dreaming with eyes open, imbued with an ephemeral quality that seems to linger at the edge of conscious perception, creating an introspective, enveloping flow of mood-altering pieces. The album progresses into deeper, darker, warmer, and quieter zones, towards a beautiful submerged ending.
Do not expect jangly chords or ripping riffs, however, for Roach has filtered this guitarwork through a series of sound processors, rendering the strings into languid soundscapes that undulate timelessly through the air. These delicate tonalities drift like somber dust motes on aerial currents, guided into elongated harmonies by Roach's masterful ability to derive structure from sounds that teeter on the brink of silence.
For all its passive qualities, this music possesses an undercurrent of vitality. These calming aural moods are dense with seemingly endless textures and soothing drones, but their softness is subtly alive with a subdued agitation accountable to their guitar origins. While "pure" electronics display an unearthly resonance, in Roach's expert hands the guitar proves itself to be just as capable of filling the air with ethereal sound.
Where others may be satisfied to compile passages of raw scrapings and dreamy strumming, Roach treats the output of his guitars like an assortment of airborne mists, guiding these sonic vapors into introspective currents whose elegant contortions smoothly traverse space and time to generate a timeless zone of infinite expanse.
For the CD's epic piece, "Spirit Moves", a mantra beat has been added to the haunting strains, delivering the composition from higher atmospherics into realms that exhibit more humanity and substance. This quasi-tribal percussive presence is utilized only for the beginning of this 28 minute track, allowing moodiness to resume control of the patient flow.
Matt Howarth — Sonic Curiosity
|1. ||Present Moment|| ||7:52|| |
|2. ||Spirit Moves||MP3||28:37|| |
|3. ||Slow Rising|| ||14:38|| |
|4. ||Almost Touching||MP3||13:56|| |
|5. ||Ebb|| ||4:52|| |
|6. ||Flow|| ||4:00|| |