by Roger Batty, Musique Machine
This is a reissue of a classic slice of electronica/ambience from 1986 which shows Roach in a more racing, upbeat and atmospheric form than his more expansive breathing ambience. It also comes with an excellent extra 70-minute disc of unreleased early material.
There's no doubt about it, this is very much of its time with the synth sounds, rhythmic textures and production sitting squarely in 1980's. But if, like me, you enjoy active 80's synth soundtrack music or Tangerine Dream's more effective and upbeat mid to late 80's work, you'll find a lot to enjoy here. The tracks are all fairly short, sharp and dramatic with each lasting between four to seven minutes apiece, with Roach never stretching or over-milking an idea, which again quite relates to a soundtrack-like feel. All but one of the tracks here is built around layers of upbeat synth textures which Roach weaves into effective racy, cinematic and melodic tracks. There's also a rather nice and effective use of female vocal harmonizing on a few tracks, which adds an interesting edge to the proceedings. My only slight criticism is on a few of the tracks here he seems to pull out too soon from the racing atmospheric pace, leaving you wanting more development, but it's not a major thing, and I guess it's better than getting fed up with being stretched out.
The second disc brings together two early tracks. First, we have "Harmonia Mundi" which is a 45-minute collaboration between Roach and Swiss-born electronic musician Thomas Ronkin recorded between 1982-83. It's basically a seemingly never-ending stream of interlocking synth patterns that the pair knit out in spacey and harmonic wonder, and again like EMPETUS is very upbeat and racy; a very satisfying long-form piece of 80's synth music. The other piece on the disc is entitled "Release", and it's a 25-minute track recorded in 1982, just after Roach's first album NOW. As Roach points out in his liner notes, it has quite a Klaus Schulze vibe to it, more like 70's electronica. But again it's still a really great atmospheric slice of synth bobbing and cinematic weaving that keeps your heart racing and keeps your attention throughout.
All in all, a great double disc of highly rewarding and classic 80's synth music, with the newly-discovered material been just as rewarding as the EMPETUS material.