by Dave Aftandilian, Ink 19
Individually, Steve Roach and vidnaObmana are both amazing musicians, masters of dark and tribal ambient musics that seamlessly meld organic and electronic sounds into transcendent visions. But when they get together, something truly magic happens. Mixing Steve Roach's more active, percussive approach with vidnaObmana's gentle, fluid flute and synths produces something entirely new, a hybrid at once deeply soothing and profoundly unsettling. INNERZONE is their fifth collaboration, and although it's not the masterpiece that their joint WELL OF SOULS (1995) was, it's still an excellent CD that's well worth having. Except for the 25-minute title track, much of INNERZONE has a more terrestrial than celestial feel, favoring explorations of inner rather than outer space. The album opens by placing you "At the Edge of Everything," with vast expanses of icy, menacing synths expanding on all sides as you stand at the border separating everything you've ever known from the wonders and terrors that lie beyond (or within). From across the edge you hear faint flutes, insectlike clickings and birdlike twitterings, chiming bells, and as you step closer to hear better, you suddenly realize you've crossed into the unknown... Tribal drums, electronic percussion, flutes, and waves of dark synths buoy you onward, showing you the "Strands," the sacred rituals of the everyday that link every living and nonliving thing together. Walking, you turn to look at the once familiar landscape around you, and see it's all changed somehow, all numinous and interconnected now. For the first time you see how each step you take sends a wave of energy into the ground that shakes the nearby tree imperceptibly, startling a bird in its branches into song or flight, which in turns carries that same wave of energy into the clear blue sky. Gradually the track slows and slides into more shadowed realms; night follows night as the wave expands outward across your lifetime, and on into the vast universe beyond. With "Isolation," a low synth carries you out into a vast, empty sea, with touches of Steve Roach's ambient guitar cresting the waves. Slowly the sea flows into a cavern, with you alone in its enveloping darkness, the quiet guitar notes becoming the words you speak into the echoing silence. Electronic percussion joins tribal flutes, simple and lovely, the rich voice of the ancients answering your inner calls. Drums begin a rhythmic beat, louder and louder, joined by frenetic percussion, building faster and faster as your mind opens and the visions from the collective unconscious pour in, quicker than you could possibly hope to comprehend them, until the track finally fades, leaving you alone to explore the rest of the INNERZONE.