by John Diliberto 11/5/2019
Steve Roach has always worked in phases. There was his early, Berlin School phase, the techno-tribal phase which launched with Dreamtime Return, the drone zone phase, which is always happening with Roach and now, the analog sequencer dervish phase. Since his 2015 CD of the Month, Skeleton Keys, Roach has been going back to modular synths in deeper way than he ever did in the 1980s. The results, heard on Bloom Ascension, have been a music driven by spiraling sequencer patterns that evolve and mutate across a large expanse of time, although for Roach, these are relatively short pieces. He’s evolving from Skeleton Key’s ringing non-keyboard approach, using sweeping synth chords that swell in spectral orchestras throughout tracks like “The Beauty Relentless”.
Of course, no sooner did we pick this as a bonus CD, than Roach drops yet another album, Trance Archeology. It’s his third in 2019, after eight releases in 2018.
Trance Archeology finds Roach returning to his techno-tribal sound with acoustically percussive rhythms and strange but organically morphing sound effects of creaks and ratchets. “Spawn of Time” lives up to its foreboding title in a ritual dance through the underworld. “Indigo Moon” is a meditative expanse by comparison as pristine timbres shimmer through water-drop focus. “Long Shadow” takes that approach deeper and darker in one of Roach’s deeply evolving drone zone works.
But the most interesting tracks may be the “Trance Genealogy” which seems to merge his analog modular and sequencer driven sound with a more organic, but no less electronic sound design. In a way this may be the most varied of Roach’s latest albums. It’s not just sequencers on stun or drone zones to the abyss. Instead, he taps many veins of his music in the last three decades, creating individual tracks but in a coherent world.
“Birthpulse” shares a techno-tribal lineage with “Spawn of Time” while “Firebreather” extends that sound into a menacing dervish of heavy percussion loops accented and laced by splotchy sounds like they were being squeezed out of a tube of toothpaste. Roach was never afraid to be scary in his music and this could be a score to a very dark horror film.
Steve Roach’s Bloom Ascension is a bonus CD for new subscribers to the Echoes CD of the Month Club.
Steve Roach’s Trance Archeology, is currently available as a name-your-own-price download on Bandcamp.com.
Read John Diliberto’s review of Skeleton Keys
Hear Steve Roach Interview in Echoes Podcast: