The Desert Inbetween
March 2011

For his latest sonic guided tour to the shadowy, primal places inside ourselves, techno-shaman Steve Roach elicits the help of didgeridoo guru/ambient craftsman Brian Parnham. Together they carve out a deep and surrounding tribal journey that carries on the legacy of Roach's desert-ambient works and also takes the listener into THE SERPENT'S LAIR -style darkly meditative spaces. Roach has said recently that he and Byron Metcalf are working on a follow-up to Lair, echoes of which were heard in the grooves the two laid down at Soundquest Fest 2010; between that, his recent NIGHTBLOOM release with Mark Seelig and now this, it's clear that Roach is stockpiling and refining his grooves in this direction, perfecting his role as lower-world explorer. Wherever this trip is taking us overall, THE DESERT INBETWEEN is a stunning stop along the way.

THE DESERT INBETWEEN is as much Parnham's disc as it is Roach's, his serpentine didg coils burrowing into your head to control your mind under cover of Roach's swirling sounds. On the lead track, "Opening Sky," the didg pairs up nicely with Roach's ambient guitar, the crying chord-shimmer that puts me in mind of STREAMS & CURRENTS. There is a strong sense of trading-off here, each man leading the way for a stretch, then letting the other take the front. In this manner, THE DESERT INBETWEEN slides, glides and sighs its way through crossfades of feeling, power and subtlety, energy and quiet. Listen to the eerie muted radio voices haunting "Ancestral Passage" giving way to rolls of thunder and desert-wind pads. Listen to the space late in "Return to the Underground" where the tribal briefly yields to the technical, with pulsating wave forms dripping over edgy pads -- something of a wake-up call to your tranced-out mind. Or fall into the driving, percussion-fed downward charge of "Serpent Gulch," a prayer filled with power and potency culled from a rhythm built on analog-synth lines, clay pots, drums and Parnham's curling, insistently chanting didg. Then, when it relents for its last few minutes, accept that you have no choice but to follow that flow, your exhilarated pulse and breathing coming in line with the vast space that the duo lay out before you. They do it again with the ritualistic rhythms of "Somewhere Between," about the darkest track here, featuring the rich tones of a waterphone vying with sharp metallic clanks and clatters, the patterns coming out like a makeshift invocation, Parnham's hypnotic drones stirring the mix, bringing you back up to the soft space of "Spirit Passage," which has a fantastic callback with the reappearance of the ghostly voices.

Like many of Roach's voyages, this one wends its way to end in a contemplative space, the trip completed and you left alone to feel the resonance gently fade. After dwelling inside this music literally for hours on end (and gladly so), what strikes me about THE DESERT INBETWEEN, outside of its depth of effect, is the depth of sound. It is a richly dimensional concatenation of purposeful sounds that ricochet in rhythm around each other to create the space as they go, every one of them integral. Parnham's contributions of didgeridoo, synth and percussion help fill out and solidify the thing while adding his own new hues to a fairly familiar palette.

Take this journey often. THE DESERT INBETWEEN is a Hypnagogue Highly Recommended CD.

The Desert Inbetween

CD  $15.00 
ON SALE, $5.00 
Box Set out of stock
The Desert Inbetween
Steve Roach, Brian Parnham
2011 Projekt PRO253 (CD)
Reviewed by Richard Gürtler, AllMusic, Electroambient Space, Guts of Darkness, Hypnagogue, MusicTAP, Sonic Curiosity, Sonic Immersion, Synth & Sequences

Steve Roach's unique soundquests continue to take him and his listeners on powerful journeys to worlds at once alien and familiar. On THE DESERT INBETWEEN, Roach teams up with fellow synthesist/percussionist/didgeridoo player Brian Parnham to explore a hybrid electronic acoustic soundworld sure to please listeners of Suspended Memories and ORIGINS -era tribalism as well as THE SERPENT'S LAIR -styled electronics.

The blending of highly-altered organic sounds and instruments (voices, bells, didgeridoo & percussion, Waterphone), electric guitar and a vast array of analog and digital instruments connects deep into the primal mind. Drawing inspiration from the stark and magnificent expanses of the desert southwest, this project explores the outer edges of solitude: psychological states accessed when the imagination is cut free from daily concerns and permitted to focus on the essentials.

THE DESERT INBETWEEN expresses a longing for a state of beautiful isolation. The desert bakes away the superfluous to bring about a heightened state of self awareness, the expanse in between ordinary reality and special states of connected, creative awareness.

The desert has long been a landscape that holds great inspiration for musical artists, writers and painters. To the receptive, it immediately provides a more direct path to the deeper self and source of one's artistic impulses. As the land of extremes, the desert is alive with beauty, stark vastness, magnificent vistas and silence. All of these places are expressed on THE DESERT INBETWEEN. Both artists know this desert realm after years of being immersed in this environment. Either as a metaphor for the inner world or a direct interpretation, the dynamic and subtle interweave of this experience is clearly alive here.

THE DESERT INBETWEEN is a masterwork collaboration of organic, tribal ambient rhythms, nuanced hand-made sounds and searing textures.

Also available: SOUNDS FROM THE INBETWEEN BOX SET, joining THE DESERT INBETWEEN and IMMERSION FIVE - CIRCADIAN RHYTHMS in a limited-edition box, autographed and personally hand-numbered by Steve (autographs may be omitted by special request). Each box also contains a CD-sized postcard with additional glyphs hand-scribed by Steve, every one unique.

1. Opening SkyMP311:03 
2. Ancestral PassageMP39:19 
3. Serpent GulchMP311:11 
4. Somewhere BetweenMP37:13 
5. Spirit PassageMP34:14 
6. Return to the UndergroundMP317:14 
7. When the Raven Flies 6:31 

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