All is Now, Darkest Before Dawn, Day Out of Time
by Jim Brenholts
November 10, 2002
Steve Roach is one of the most intense individuals on this – or any other – planet. His intensity goes beyond his artistry, which is substantial, into a Zen-like state of awareness. He seems to be able to thrive at levels of consciousness that few – if any – others realize. His gift is his ability to translate that intensity and to use it productively. He shares those levels with others through his music, which is also substantial.
ALL IS NOW is a double CD of breathtaking live music from his Spring/Summer tour of 2002. In its presentation form, it is two separate events.
Disc one is from four West Coast concerts. The title comes from the feeling that Steve gets right before a show: "All is now... and now is all there is." He takes his role as a pilot of a ship seriously, assuring that his passengers (the audience) will have a sonic experience unlike any other. His soundworlds evolve from his multiple responsibilities as sound designer, live mix engineer, musician, and listener. Careful listeners will feel the heat of Steve's energy as he blends familiar sounds into unique soundscapes. His craftsmanship is his lifeblood. There are no "familiar" sounds. Like a film editor, Steve has created one hybrid concert where four existed.
Disc two, "Live in Sedona", is from his second set at Seven Centers Yoga Arts in Sedona, Arizona. His plan was to follow the same map as the first set. At about 20 minutes, Steve scrapped that plan and followed an underground conduit to the red rock canyons of his favorite formations in Sedona. The distinct soundworlds are deep and dark. Their density is matched only by their intensity. Only Steve Roach can create these feelings in his music. Only Steve Roach can approach these levels of awareness. He follows sentience that exists beyond the realms of possibility. His physical being was in Sedona on May 3, 2002. His psyche, soul and spirit were elsewhere.
Again, mere words do not do justice to this man's work. How can a mere reviewer express in words what comes form another man's soul? This reviewer can only express what is in his own soul and that will have to do.
The first thing that most listeners notice about a CD is its visual appeal: the artwork. The cover for DAY OUT OF TIME is a beautiful grayscale photo by Jim Stimson (www.jimstimson.com) It is of a desert formation with storm clouds that are ready to let loose with a fury of lightning, thunder and rain on the Arizona landscape [correction: Mono Lake in California – ed.]. This collection of pieces from Steve Roach is the soundtrack for TIME OF THE EARTH, a DVD available from Projekt, one of Steve's preferred labels. Linda Kohanov's verbal artistry describes the video better than this reviewer ever could, so he will not try. And, while she could probably describe the music much better as well, this reviewer will review it.
As mentioned above, seven of the 11 tracks are from Steve's releases on Timeroom Editions and Projekt. The other four are from compilation CD's. Steve gathered these from some of his more diverse styles and certainly from divergent eras of his career. The pieces range from the dark sombient "Merciful Eyes" (on Asphodel's A STORM OF DRONES) to the early desert ambience of "The Return" (from DREAMTIME RETURN) to some pure electronic space music from ATMOSPHERIC CONDITIONS (two tracks). Steve's distinct voice comes out clearly in each piece. Each piece, in turn, contributes its own personality to the personality of the new soundworld. Thus, Steve gets an additional return from these soundscapes as his ritual continues.
DARKEST BEFORE DAWN just might be the best Steve Roach disc ever. Such praise would have to place it near (or at) the top of the list of best e-music CD's ever, given Steve's status as the best e-music artist ever (IMHO). He has become, quite simply, the quintessential electronician. Steve has demonstrated the ability to thrive in many different e-music styles. His recent impact, until now, has been in the electro-tribal and desert ambient realms. (Indeed, he is the "inventor" of desert ambience.) Steve's landmark and milestone releases in those styles have redefined the way that many e-music devotees listen to music.
This wonderful CD serves as a reminder to his fans that he is also a master minimalist. There are a couple of handfuls of phenomenal e-musicians creating absolutely stunning dark, even satanic, ambient atmospheres. This disc is just as scary and just as dark as any of them, and it is deeper than the deepest. Steve accomplishes all of this without crossing into the realm of satanic soundscapes. His deep drones serve as the bases for his voluminous atmospheres. He strings them together into one 74 minute soundworld.
In the realms of reality, this CD has no meaning and no foothold. Listeners willing to think "outside the box" will be able to determine something. Only those listeners willing and able to "think above the box" will begin to grasp the concepts and depths of Steve Roach's dynamic soundworlds.
This takes the listener (and reader) full circle. The reviews of this "triple pak" began with Steve at a different level of Zen consciousness. Along the way there has been mention of the depths and heights of these adventures. The reviews end with Steve still out there, a real human being with a sense of perception that exceeds all possible explanations.