by Andy Garibaldi, CD Services (UK)
New studio CD -- four really long tracks -- guest appearances from Patrick O'Hearn and Byron Metcalf -- production second to none. It's been heralded as having a "whole new feel" for the musician and, despite my fears for such a statement, you can actually see what they mean right from the opening track. "Wicked Dream" is an 18-minute piece that features Roach and O'Hearn, and consists of slowly roving electronic and synth textures, bass depth and layers, above a slowly rolling rhythm of resonant, ethnic, African-sounding drums and percussion. Hardly anything new there, you might think, but listen to the rhythms: they have what can only be described as a "groove" or a "swing" to them. The way the rhythms undulate and sway, flow and slowly drive, creating an atmosphere of warm and deep space that allies perfectly to the unfolding electronic textures that soar on top, is not only spellbinding, but somewhere between light and dark, a music that has appeal for both houses of the space music fraternity.
The 10-minute "Fever Pulse" is an apt title, as here the drum rhythms are more "stumbling" and the electronics more of an "edge", a feeling of restlessness running through the heart of the track, echoing a supremely apt title. But for all that, it's no less engaging, with some wonderful resonant (electronic?) bass work in the mix as well.
"Tantra Mantra" is nearly 30 minutes long, and here things relax to a more sedate manner, as the layers and atmospheres swirl and float over soaring textural electric guitar lines that ebb and flow, while the rhythms this time are composed of echoing and slowly driving ethnic drums and electro-percussive backdrops, again, slowly swirling round in the mix but still with that insistent feel that has you hooked. In tried and trusted fashion, the assorted, ongoing layers and textures, rhythms and depths, unfold, appear, disappear, return, while all the time maintaining this mesmerizing feel to the whole thing; totally spacey, totally cosmic but with rhythm, swing and emotive depth.
The 14-minute "Moved Beyond" continues the pattern set by the opening track, and just as stunning, as more resonant drum work combines with the layers and textures that rise above the rolling rhythmic base in remarkable fashion. As a piece of his entire work, I'd put this alongside TRANCE SPIRITS as the perfect antidote for all that mayhem, a chilled-out Steve Roach album for those that still want to hear drums in his music, as well as his now-legendary musical constructions and arrangements, the warm, yet dark and deep, feel present from start to finish.