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Immersion Five - Circadian Rhythms
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.
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 immense ambient expanse of The Desert Inbetween, the newest Steve Roach collaboration, this one with Brian Parham, explores a desert of secret places where there should be none. Using eerie and expanded tones to represent the chaotic environment of a land where few can exist outside the fear of the unknown, and the unforgiving.
Metaphorically, the composers may have used this tone painting to examine the seemingly empty but fully lethal darkness that resides in “The Desert Inbetween” our own lives. A proper visit to this latest ambient episode of darkness yields the usual experience of an hour of departure that remains long after the voluntary immersion.
The Desert Inbetween applies its continuity with a bridged seven tracks. And while the titles act as a sort of signpost, or mile marker, they are truly segments of a massive symphony to be played back in its entirely, at each sitting. Steve Roach has long successfully created the musical equivalent of the various stages of humanity and their struggles mixed with the confusion of their darkness. It is a recurring musical trademark that sifts through these theatres of life, often with attendant fear. Brian Parnham, Roach’s co-composer of this album, brings a strong set of instrumental and percussion skills, as well as strong visionary composition to the completeness of The Desert Inbetween.
If you like a great ambient experience, an often unvisited treat since the early days of Rock and the brilliance of great composers (Hoenig, Froese, to name a few pioneers), then the immersive ambient darkness of The Desert Inbetween will trip your brain with explosive synaptic impact. Visit The Desert Inbetween. Like much of Steve Roach ambient works, you won’t soon forget it.
Yet, in some cases this is not even really a bad thing, depending upon how much we as listeners truly enjoy said ‘style’ or sound. There are artists and listeners who actually do enjoy exploring a narrower range, focusing on those details and micro-moments which change with each release. A process of distillation and refinement in search of musical essence(s) is a commendable pursuit; at rare times resulting in musical nectar. In genres such as dub or electronica it is those small, startling changes in sound or technique that make whole oeuvres both compelling and entertaining. Or, make even a single musical piece so lovely or wonderful that it is never put aside. This certainly applies to the brooding, magical landscapes created by Steve Roach (and collaborators) over the years.
In all honesty I have never met anyone who owns every release by Mr. Roach and his collaborators/friends. Neither have I ever met anyone who owns every release by Current 93 or Brian Eno, although there are surely a few out there. Roach, like Eno and Tibet, have such an agglomeration of releases that most listeners just do not have the stamina or wherewithal to accommodate their musical fertility. So, most of us check in with such artists from time to time, seeing what they are up to and try to decide which release(s) are worth our cash. The Desert Inbetween by Steve Roach and Brian Parnham is certainly a release worthy of consideration when it comes to both allocating attention and funds.
On The Desert Inbetween Steve Roach collaborates with Brian Parnham, whom he has worked on two previous occasions, if memory serves. Roach supplies, besides synths and percussion, some atmospheric electric guitar sounds while Parnham contributes with didgeridoo, percussion and synths. Overall, the album very much has that Steve Roach ‘sound’, so I assume his was the overriding aesthetic vision for the album.
As for my favorite tracks, the initial offering called “Opening Sky” is very nice with some well-blended guitar sounds that remind me of the more ambient moments of a David Torn or Steve Tibbetts. “Serpent Gulch” is mysterious, with effective percussion reminiscent of prime Jon Hassell. “Somewhere Between” drones moodily until subtle percussives begin resonating; a sound-painting of an alien twilight descending. Roiling synths and didgeridoo create a captivating sense of the enigmatic on “Return to the Underground”. The album as a whole is quite compelling in its ambience and would go well with a similarly moody reading material (say Charles DeLint or Thomas Ligotti?). It must be admitted that Steve Roach is probably more absorbing on headphones than when played over speakers…..unless one has no neighbors or at least very patient ones who enjoy ambience at volume. It is only on headphones that all the subtleties with which Parnham and Roach have infused The Desert Inbetween can be truly appreciated. Although the album is ‘ambient’, it compels you to listen actively. And such active listening rewards the listener with audio worlds both rich and stimulating.
Roach plays: electric guitar (melodic, looped. textural and Ebow), analog and digital synthesizers. Euro rack modular system, megabass waterphone, hybrid grooves, ocarinas, and ambient percussion. Parnham plays: digital, VST and analog synthesizers, didgeridoo, udu drums, shakers, grooves, processing, muted guitar bass pulse, field recordings, various percussion, trance elements, and hornitos bottle.
Blending aspects of tribal and textural elements, this music explores the solitude inherent in a desert scenario.
The electronics are delicate and ethereal, delivering harmonic flows that hint at melodic definition while remaining unobtrusively atmospheric. Chords are elongated and coaxed to freely drift through a vaporous medium of additional tonalities. Auxiliary electronics contribute a twinkling presence which remains distant but discernible.
While some percussives are utilized. they do not contribute strong rhythms, instead tempering the streaming ambience with sparse tempos of a muffled nature. These beats generally reside just at the periphery of conscious detection, thereby providing a tasty subliminal presence that stirs the audience's deeply buried tribal memories.
The application of other tribal instruments enhances this primitive character while maintaining an elusive quality in the music, often haunting and quite engaging.
On other occasions, use of guitar effects establishes a mechanical churning that inspires an otherworldly flair.
The compositions are fragile and expansive. Instead of harnessing the desert's arid properties, the music evokes vast regions of emptiness and urges the listener to populate that void with their own introspective musings. By breaking down the barrier between reality and consciousness, this tuneage promotes psychological exploration--or just idle relaxation, although the chances are good that the former state will creep in to supplant the latter if given the opportunity. -Matt Howarth
The hybrid electro-acoustic soundworld The Desert Inbetween is the culmination of their efforts, a 67-minute strong organic soundscape with searing textural tapestries, assorted tribal/ethnic rhythms and elements, delivered in seven tracks. It also sees the return of Steve’s soft yearning e-guitar on certain spots, something I personally never been too fond of as he started using it on e.g. "Midnight Moon", and some hybrid grooves (e.g. the dynamic "Serpent Gulch") while Brian adds bits of didgeridoo from his side.
The immense vastness, imaginary vistas and bare silence shimmer through the veins of this album. Keep in mind it’s not that quiet, as groovy undercurrents and assorted percussion from time to time lend it an active "vibe". In my opinion, the deep atmospheric, the hypnotic and the immersive best surface on the 17-minute "Return to the Underground".
The Desert Inbetween is recommended for those who care for an assemblage of highly-altered organic sounds and instruments, travellers to worlds once alien and familiar, next to Roach’s tribal-infused Origins-period and the two Suspended Memories projects. © Bert Strolenber
A heavy and sinuous reverberation opens "Opening Sky". Slow morphic layers join this twisted and floating line where guttural winds cross a movement which borrows an ascending and poignant tangent, both in feelings and rhythms, with Amerindian percussions styles which pierce hardly a heavy thick cloud of synth winds to shape this mystic musical incantation. The movement reaches its emotional peak with a curt movement, and layers of ethereal guitars become detached from it to float above a rhythm which pulses strangely. An increasing tempo, at once sensual and bewitching, fed by tribal percussions, rattlers tones and breezes of an enchanting Didgeridoo which accompany the dreamy floating waves of Steve Roach’s six-strings in a clannish universe which goes in fading away. "Ancestral Passage" follows a little in the line traced by "Opening Sky" with fine percussions, raucous reverberations and spectral murmurs which accompany ethereal layers of a solitary guitar. In half-way, this delicate rhythm stops to embrace an atonic phase where thunders, hollow breaths and a multitude of rattlesnake tones entwine in a morphic peace, perturbed by elements of a hybrid nature. "Serpent Gulch" begins with elongated dark winds which wind around an imaginary line whereas frenzied percussions re-introduce a semi-trance rhythm constantly flew over by sinuous reverberations of a stunning Didgeridoo whose breathes are soaked with stunning tones of sirens. The strange musical universe of Roach spreads out and invades the waves and rhythms of "Serpent Gulch" which gradually rushes into raucous winds of an arid land, pierced of mystic caves.
Winds that also find refuge in the introduction of "Somewhere Between" which takes on a rather particular character with its bells and rattlers resounding from everywhere, while percussions shape a lifeless rhythm imprinted by a spiritual tribal approach. That’s a bewitching track, both by its slow tempo and by the strange tones which ensue from it, quite as "Spirit Passage" and its spectral voices murmuring beneath layers of a guitar which abandons its lamentations in the furrows of a desert filled by ancestral souvenirs. "Return to the Underground" is a long ambient track with atmospheres that are between the Immersion series, Quiet Music and Structure from Silence. Morphic synth layers embrace the heavy reverberations of Didgeridoo, creating a strange fusion of an abstract rhythm but living of its slow impulsions which evolve in a sepulchral and profoundly dark ambiance. "When the Raven Flies" concludes The Desert Inbetween with the same soft caresses of suave electronic winds. Slow, the movement floats of its guitars’ layers which become entangled to those synth and Didgeridoo winds, while fine percussions continue to lull to sleep the rhythm in order to leave the spectres of desert in peace.
Filled by a splendid sound fauna where the spirits of desert roam in a stunning musicality, The Desert Inbetween is at the dimension of Steve Roach's works. It’s an album tortured between rhythms and ambiances, quite as the emotions living in us and which are also the prerogative of the Californian synthesist’s spiritualities who is very well supported by Brian Parnham, more mature and confident since his very first work, Between Here and There in 2005.This is a major work of art from which the musical cornerstones and spiritual progress will lead us to the wonderful feelings and musicality that we shall find on the excellent The Road Eternal and Live at SoundQuest Fest. -Sylvain Lupari