All is Now
by Phil Derby, Electroambient Space
This 2-CD set perfectly captures the essence of Steve Roach's 2002 tour, including a small snapshot of the show I caught in Portland in June. The tour featured Steve in fine form, flawlessly combining elements of several of his latest CDs, including in particular the powerful rhythms of CORE and the haunting ambient guitar of STREAMS & CURRENTS. Each disc flows seamlessly, subdivided by cities but also grouped into themes. For example, disc one opens with "Setting Course," which begins with Part 1 in Oakland and continues with Parts 2 and 3 from the Portland show. At first it is nearly silent, with only crickets and other night sounds. Slow washes of sound, blending the primitive and the futuristic in Roach's unique way, are gently folded in. The ambient guitar then surfaces, shimmering in the darkness. Unusual punches of percussion signal the beginning of Part 2 as moody guitarscapes continue. A very cool groove enters the mix, bubbling along. The beat slows down for Part 3 as the swirling atmospherics continue. The oddest sound appears here and continues through the piece. Imagine a creaky shoe put through reverb and some waveform alterations, and you'll have the general idea. Parts 4 through 7 are "Life Meditation," and here the rhythms really take center stage. I remember this passage well from the concert, with its forceful presence that you could feel as much as hear. Part 5 moves from the surreal to the rhythmic, with a somewhat softer less insistent beat. It's one of the best drum pieces on the two discs, though it's hard to pick a favorite. Part 6 is very much a CORE-influenced piece. The pace and the emotion shifts smoothly from part to part, culminating in a cool floater to end disc one.
Disc two is taken from a Sedona, Arizona performance, divided into eight parts. It begins with more crickets and ambient guitar work. The guitar is allowed to mine the depths fully, exploring each nook and crevice. Part 2 is a stunning hybrid groove space reminiscent of STORMWARNING melded with elements of CORE. And so it goes, continuing to alternate mesmerizing floaters with intense rhythms. Part 8 is essentially "The Reflecting Chamber" from LIGHT FANTASTIC, a great variant on a great piece, bringing this set to a satisfying end.