Possible Planet
by Phil Derby, Electroambient Space
October 2005


As adventurous as Steve Roach has been over the past two-plus decades, I was still wholly unprepared for the brave new trail he blazes on POSSIBLE PLANET. Done entirely on analog modular instruments, with no keyboards, no MIDI, no soft synths, Steve has created a singular vision, an oozing, organic biography of a truly alien world never before seen or heard. The unusual, vaguely unsettling photography by Michele Wortman is a perfect parallel to the music contained within the strangely compelling packaging. Three long tracks meander through murky tunnels, damp musty corners, and bubbly green-black pools. "First Murmer" is loaded with deep resonant drones than slowly expand and contract. Eerie clicking sounds mark the transition point to track two, "Gestation." The clicking reminds me of the frightening invisible alien from the movie Predator, hiding among the trees in the jungle. The drones go deeper and take on a more metallic timbre as the ominous clicking resurfaces. It is like a stark nightmare version of The Magnificent Void. But sometimes when we wake up from a nightmare, instead of being frightened we can say, "wow, that was really cool," and we are more excited than afraid by the stirring of our imagination with bold new images. Such is the case here. "Cell Memory" is a little brighter, more electronic than the very organic sounds preceding it, although the gurgly clicking remains. As the swirls of pure space sounds emerge, we move closer into familiar space territory, similar in feel to Michael Stearns classic Planetary Unfolding on the mighty Serge modular synthesizer. It becomes more relaxed and once again organic in the final floating minutes. It is exhilarating exploring Steve Roach's POSSIBLE PLANET.


Possible Planet

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ON SALE, $10.00 
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Possible Planet
Steve Roach
2005 Timeroom Editions 16 (CD)
Reviewed by Mark Morton, Peter Grenader, Frank MacEowen, CD Services (UK), Electroambient Space, e|i magazine, Morpheus Music, Sonic Curiosity, Sonic Immersion

This pivotal new long-form soundworld work pulls back the layers and increases the magnification to reveal a truly organic, analog-based core sound at a level not heard before in Steve's music. The metaphor of emerging lifeforms on a possible planet sets the mood for the three movements presented as a continuous immersive zone. "Wet", "shimmering", "cellular" and "diaphanous" are some words that could describe this living-breathing soundscape.

"While this long from zoneworld was created between December 2004 and May 2005, it developed into a pivotal new release for me. It's also included in The Dreamtime Box because it represents a parallel in some ways to "Looking For Safety" from DREAMTIME RETURN. As an artist if you live long enough to draw a line back in time, the recurring themes can link up to create an interesting graph of stylistic confluence. These two pieces, POSSIBLE PLANET and "Looking For Safety" (recorded in 1986) are at similar points on that graph, with many years in-between them and created in very different circumstances, but still sharing the same air. "During my 'analog rebirth' (see below) this desire started emerging to create a kind of soundscape environment which portrayed an undefined life form as it's just starting to emerge from the primordial soup on some distant planet. The sounds were forming in my imagination and were brought to life as you hear them across three movements. This set the mood for the idea of expressing the emerging, evolving sense of consciousness coming into form."

The Process... "I have always had a visceral connection to the instruments which I choose to channel my energies. Sonically POSSIBLE PLANET is the result of an analog rebirth that started for me last Fall. A series of events created a craving obsession in my imagination and within my ears to hear and create from pure means, not digital to analog converted or virtual analog, frozen waveforms or soft-synths. I wanted to feel the current coming right out of the wall, and shape it from that point forward. POSSIBLE PLANET was created completely on a modular analog system which I assembled over a five-month period. As the sonic life form was evolving, the system that was creating it was evolving as well, in order for the changes to occur. This was also a great metaphor for the themes of the emerging cellular life forms I was dreaming into. "In order to remove the reliable and familiar modes of working, I eliminated a few basics: no MIDI, keyboards of any kind, or computers for composition and editing. It was all about twisting knobs, feeling it in my fingertips and coaxing the current into the desired direction. POSSIBLE PLANET was recorded during three live sessions. Each session would start after several days of creating and learning the nuances of a 'living' patch I had created, from which the soundforms were drawn."
 
1. First MurmerMP316:01 
2. GestationMP331:26 
3. Cell MemoryMP325:52 

The three movements form a continuous flow. Also available as part of THE DREAMTIME BOX.



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