by Thom Jurek, All Music Guide
Astonishingly, FEVER DREAMS is Steve Roach's 54th album since he commenced recording in 1979 (this does not count compilations). The word "prolific" here is hopelessly inadequate. And while it's true that Roach has a "sound," he doesn't repeat himself; he's always on the edge of some abyss or deep inside it, mapping out new psychic and sonic terrain. FEVER DREAMS, comprised of four long pieces, is the first part of a projected trilogy. Recorded at Roach's Timeroom Studio in the Arizona desert, it reflects the beginning of a new sound world journey, one with few signposts, where slowly evolving nocturnal grooves are articulated through washed-out keyboards, drifting loops, shakers, hand drums, hybrid percussion instruments, guitars, basses, and, of course, the expanse of inner space that comes from the very center of silence.
Roach has enlisted the help of bassist Patrick O'Hearn on this project. O'Hearn's own records in the past have explored the notion of groove and pulse, as well as more spectral soundscapes, but he has never appeared in a setting like this one. Roach's reliance on the bass in these four elongated pieces is unprecedented in his own work. There are no funky popping lines or intricate runs here, though on "Fever Pulse" the throb of two overlapping, staggered basses and a direct percussive counterpoint become the muted if undeniable soul of the composition.
The centerpiece of the album is "Tantra Mantra," which is nearly half an hour in length. Its groove is so subtle and blurry, and yet so insistent, that it's difficult to know at what point it has utterly taken over the listener's consciousness. It's sultry, steamy, and sexual in an archetypal way; it doesn't drift so much as wander in widening circles, from the body's pleasure center -- the mind -- outward to its sense perceptions and extremities. This is a music of pure, gently undulating writhe, where perception and feeling become one and the same.
The album closes with "Moved Beyond," which seems to articulate the notion that what has come before on this set was a precursor to this new form of emptiness. Everything exists in this space; it's full and breathing, shimmering with bliss. Sound emanates from the shadows and returns there. The grooves offer direction, but they are impressions rather than road maps. If one attaches to the sound of a particular drum, one misses the others. Inside this abundant void is the blossoming not only of rhythm, whisper, and unidentifiable sonics, but their underside, as the organization of space according to a silence full of symbols, movements, and breaths that exist simultaneously inside and outside the music.
Once again, Steve Roach has given listeners new vistas to encounter and to ponder, but this time, the sacred body -- both rainbow and physical -- is whispered to as well as the emotions and the mind. FEVER DREAMS is the sound of becoming suddenly awake, aware of what has transpired on a sub- or unconscious level, as if from a fever dream.