by Stephanie Sollow, Progressive World
Reviewing this genre of music is both the hardest and the easiest. If you aren't one to pick apart a piece by describing meter, keys, tonics, whether its atonal or tonal, then it's easy, because you can describe it on interpretive levels.
BODY ELECTRIC no doubt takes its title from the Ray Bradbury novel I Sing the Body Electric. This latest release by Steve Roach, in collaboration with Vir Unis, is textured with percolating percussion of various varieties, even the synths take on percussive qualities. Each of the album's ten tracks, take as their theme some aspect of the body electric.
If you can image randomly generated fractal patterns based on the energy of the body, then you will have some idea of how this music sounds. It is atonal, and yet tonal. In some cases the circle back to the start is like a very long ellipse - a trip to the edge of the solar system and back. A better visual description is to say: look at the album cover, and think of each line an instrument bounding along in an almost endless wave. Almost, because the tracks to do come to end, rather than seamlessly melding together.
Percussion, as said, takes the forefront, while abstract voices float outside the main rhythms, like observers commenting on the goings-on. Not gods, mind you, but some entity outside - maybe it is the self looking inward.
"Gene Pool" has a keyboard soundscape that made me think briefly of those first opening moments of Gary Wright's DREAMWEAVER - those spacey synth sounds. And yet, the drumming here - digital - made me think of something else entirely: Phil Collins' "I Don't Care Anymore." They have the same tone and are almost reaching the same rhythm, though it's more the tone than anything else. This is an otherwise delicate journey along one's DNA.
This is mind music - nay, body music. Close your eyes, relax, and be taken away to your inner self. But, at the same time, you will be transported outside yourself and be able to observe the essense of being alive - never mind just human.
Okay, that does sound a bit like New Age-y "mumbo-jumbo." It's not. In the same way a long, warm bath can sooth away the stresses of the day (maybe it's a girl thing, that. I dunno), so can this music. It's not quite bio-feedback, but in a way it is. Because you will get out of it, what you put into it.
So, the bottom line is - is it good? There is the danger in this genre to hit upon some great tone (or preset) and use it in every track, rarely varying from the base. But, the converse to that is that you can set a theme up with this tone, and include the variety with other instruments and textures. It is this latter path these two artists have choosen. This is a concept album, where each track supports the main theme, not just by title, but by mood.
So, rather than good or bad, is it effective? The answer is yes. Would I recommend it to you, to anyone? Yes.