Trans-Sonic Memories

I’ve got about six large boxes full of cassettes, which of course, I never go near anymore. But a few requests prompted me to go through them this weekend. Chuck Van Zyl, the host of Star’s End in Philadelphia on WXPN wanted to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Trans-Sonic Music Festival. This was a concert that Kimberly Haas & I produced in 1986, a two-day festival in Philadelphia with Steve Roach, The Nightcrawlers, Darren Kearns & Dave Lunt, and Mikel Rouse’s Broken Consort. My recollections were that it was a great musical success, a modest financial and popular success and a nerve-wracking event to produce. In fact, we haven’t produced a concert since on our own. I managed to dig up Steve Roach’s set and most of Kearns’. I’m sure the others are around somewhere, but aren’t making themselves known.
Dubbing off the cassettes to digital media was an interesting process. I did the Kearns & Lunt set first and was surprised at how well it held up. Nothing innovative mind you, but Darren was a very gifted guitarist and had the glissando thing down cold and Dave Lunt, who also played in the Nightcrawlers, created some wonderful textures and grooves around him. What happened to Darren? His album, Optimal Beings still sounds good 20 years later.
But Steve Roach’s set was the most shocking. I’ve always said that Steve’s prolific output made it difficult to see the big strides his music was taking because we saw every micro-step along the way.
Well, this session, recorded the same year as he released Empetus, would be unrecognizable to most people who heard Steve in the post Dreamtime Return era which came only two years later.
Dreamtime Return
This was a Roach of melody, bombast, and drama that hasn’t been heard since, and it sounds surprisingly dated. Still good music, and I remember the exhilaration of hearing this set live in 1986. Tracks like “Merge,” with its interlocking sequencer patterns spinning in contrapuntal cycles and the sequencer opus, “Levels,” still hold up, but “Towards the West” and “TBC” are clearly of a time. It only illuminates the wisdom of the less-obvious artistic directions Roach has taken in the ensuing years, leaving his influences behind.
Sadly, my other recollection of this concert is standing at the side of the stage, trying to get an enraptured Roach’s attention to wind it down because we’d already run way over time.
You can hear some of these performances this Saturday night/Sunday morning, June 3/4, on Stars End on 88.5, WXPN FM. They stream their signal so if you’re up between 1-6AM eastern time, tune in.
I Found an interesting ancient links in researching some of this:
Article on Philalectric Sound, a live series Kim & I produced in the early 1980s with Kearns, the Nightcrawlers and The Ghostwriters. (Warning-Some very annoying and persistent pop-ups here).
An article on the Nightcrawlers

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