by Rik Maclean, Ping Things
Steve Roach has always been an artist who tries to immerse his audience in his work, and to that end he's always created music ripe with visual cues and suggestions. One can't help but imagine new vistas in his music, alien landscapes and worlds specially created for individual discovery. Needless to say Roach's music is ideally suited for the DVD medium, and with the release of KAIROS he brings together audio and visual elements to bring his soundworlds to life. KAIROS is an immersive experience featuring Roach's work paired with visual artists Lynn Augstein, Steve Lazur, Steven Rooke, John Wadsworth and John Vega, all of whom share Roach's vision and ideal. Would it surprise you if I said I loved it?
Opening with the sound of a thunderstorm raging across the desert while the visuals pan across a variety of desert landscapes and environments, "Soul's Time" sets the stage for the journey to come. Softly, faintly at first, but gradually building strength and form, a deep drone rises out of the storm, a musical counterpoint to the forces that rage. Clouds fly across the sky, beautiful terrains melt into each other and one can't help but feel the heat rising from the desert. Truly stunning visuals to accompany Roach's work.
As the second track "Core Regeneration" begins, the visuals slowly shift from natural landscapes into a more abstract swirl of shapes and colours. The track builds in intensity, a rotating organic piece that repeats in and around itself, evolving slightly over time until it becomes something completely new, an evolution echoed by the images displayed. One can't help but be mesmerized by the images and can't help but be drawn under their spell.
"Resonation Portal" sees another shift into a darker, spacier tone, which leads to a corresponding change in visuals, a more symetrical, mirror image movement. There's an order and shape at work here that goes hand in hand with the oblique movement in the track itself, a sense of structure and form that appeals on many levels.
Track four "Etheric Planet" has an ethereal quality to it, long drawling pads stretching languidly through the soundfield. Visually the track is accompanied by a slowly changing metallic pattern that morphs and moves in a liquid manner. It's quite stunning to watch, an oily, almost pearlized fluid that flows from one form to another. A stunning visual to accompany such a lovely piece of music.
"Lifeforming" sees a return to a more movement oriented sound, the tempo increasing slightly and gaining a more rhythmic feel to it. Once again the visuals match up brilliantly, taking on a blue quality that can't help but remind one of the ocean, a particularly apt choice given that all life comes from it's waters. A wonderfully organic track.
Track six, "Biogenesis" takes on a deep analog feel, a repeated phrase rotating around and through itself. There's a feeling of technology here, a movement and form that suggests circuitry and electronic pulse. The visuals parallel this idea with a return to the abstract and fluid shapes of earlier tracks. Brilliantly matched work.
"Womb of Light" has a mystical sound to it, an oscilating drone, spinning in a vortex of light coupled with an organic mirror reflection visual. Tribal percussion anchors a swirling sound while snatches of melody and small phrases drift and bob through the mix. It's an engrossing track, one that really sets fire to the senses.
The last track, "The Great Return" continues with an analog synth feel to it, blended with a droning tone that slowly overtakes it in volume and strength, ultimately becoming the focal point of the track. The disc ends as the drone fades, a slow and gradual process akin to disintegration. A simple but beautiful thing to hear, and a lovely way to ease the listener's return to the material world.
In addition to the KAIROS work (a CD version of the soundtrack without visuals is also included in the package), the disc also includes a gallery of some of the video artist's work, along with a montage of live performance material by Roach. Having never seen him perform live, I found this footage to be fascinating, a glimpse into the workings of a magician.
Needless to say, I love this DVD. I've long imagined the look of Roach's music, tried to picture the soundworlds within, and with KAIROS I have a chance to compare my own vision with the way that Roach sees it himself. It's a wonderful and engaging process, and I whole-heartedly recommend this disc as a fantastic experience, a thoroughly enjoyable journey in both sight and sound.