by Mark Morton, Wind and Wire
Steve Roach is riding a hot streak of late and this smoking session just adds to the temperature. Fans of his tribal work will especially want to snatch this up, as it represents the first one of these he's done for a while, and is uniformly excellent throughout. While FEVER DREAMS is not "typical" tribal or even typical Roach, if such a thing exsists, it is closest in spirit and feel to his "tribal" work of the past. Two more of these are expected this year, so that is more good news.
The opening track "Wicked Dreams" signals the tone of the record by immediately hitting a sensuous tribal groove with some of Roach's best percussion work in ages. Patrick O'Hearn lays down a rhythmic "sub-bass" lick that adds a ton of weight to the undulating guitar washes and remote synth strands that make up the body of the piece. O'Hearn's contribution sounds massive as it interacts with Roach's active, swampy, straightforward yet complex percussion. This piece definitely had its mojo working and was a very enjoyable exploration.
"Fever Pulse", the shortest track at just over 10 minutes, opens with tribal tom-tom rolls that lend a motoric feel to the piece. Long, cavernous guitar drones follow with a few mysterious bleeps and swooshes lingering in the murky background. Will Merkle provides a Miles Davis-like syncopated bass line that gives dense background cover for Roach's sonic irrigations. The atmospheric intensity of both pieces is somewhere around warp 1, yet the recording manages to sound inviting and relaxing as well. The continuing, pounding ostinato tom-tom percussion is alternately brought to the fore and background, which completes the flickering, feverish effect on the listener.
"Tantra Mantra" is the longest piece at nearly 30 minutes and gradually immerses the listener in the intimate subtleties of Byron Metcalf's excellent frame drum work, which at times takes on the character of a melodic sequence. Hypnotic and quiet, no intensity is lost as the guitar injects quiet probes into the listeners psyche, deepening a mood of calm and intense mystery. The frame drum pulse drives the piece ever onward so that the listener's experience is that of a traveling soundworld. The piece facilitates deep breathing and relaxation; at least it did for me. At the end I felt as thought I had journeyed to a calm, yet mysterious corner of the body-mind. The effectiveness of the piece owes much to the chemistry between Metcalf and Roach, and I look forward to more in the future.
"Moved Beyond", the final piece, opens with atmospheric effects and distant drums whirling over a free backdrop, with glissandos resembling shouts of longing and freedom beginning to ascend over the increasingly active percussion. As the effects multiply and overlap, the intensity of the spinning, simmering soundworld begins to rise. Roach and Metcalf's tools are similar to the rest of the session—various drums and percussion instruments, Steve's treated-who-knows-how guitars and synth effects and their ineffable chemistry. But this piece sounds different from the others; more freewheeling and adventurous and is a delightful atmospheric change after the three trance inducers that preceded it. It is also effective as a closer because by now, the mind has opened to the sonic worlds around it and explorations directed at the heart of the sun can be more fully experienced.
This recording is still in "heavy rotation" at my abode and will probably continue to remain there until "Part 2" comes out. Highly recommended.