Live at SoundQuest Fest
by Darren Bergstein, One Thousand Pulses
Bearing witness to Steve Roach live is always a galvanizing experience, but those in attendance last year at the host's own SoundQuest Fest in Tucson beheld an undoubtedly singular event. This is evident upon first listen to LIVE AT SOUNDQUEST FEST, even as the opening groundswell of metallic tonalities, chirping crickets, and surging soundwaves break the twilight of the desert expanse and burst forth with real power. Thankfully, those unable to partake of this performance firsthand can at least bask in the glow of the superb facsimile that is LIVE AT SOUNDQUEST FEST's aural document.
Accompanying Roach as he navigates the desert event horizon is percussive mainstay Byron Metcalf and didgeridoo players Dashmesh Khalsa and Brian Parnham, whose exotic drones and whipcrack rhythmic patterns add grist to the already electrified mill.
Over the course of 73 minutes (tracks are titled and appropriately indexed, but like the actual performance, the entire recording flows uninterrupted), Roach takes us on a virtual travelogue across the neuron-blasted soundscapes of his multi-faceted muse. "Momentum of Desire" oscillates between earth-baked tribal bass pulses and electronic gyrations that circulate into the upper stratosphere like jet-propelled ectoplasm, rhythms both machine and man-made fiercely interlocked as they jostle for dominance. One of Roach's most succinctly-titled pieces, the aptly-coined "Thunderwalkers", all 11 hypnotic minutes of it, harkens back to his Suspended Memories collaborations and the DREAMTIME RETURN environs of yesteryear, rituals made flesh thanks to the curling croaks of massed didgeridoos and urgent drumbeats rippling across a stunning latticework of electronics.
Combining all the best that Roach and his cohorts have to offer, a stylistic culmination taking in mutually-accumulated decades of innovative sound design, these performances were surely highwater marks for all concerned; the physical artifact that is LIVE AT SOUNDQUEST FEST is the next best thing to being there.