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with Steve Roach: The Shaman's Heart
& Byron Metcalf: The Serpent's Lair
& Byron Metcalf / Mark Seelig: Nada Terma ~ SALE $5
with Steve Roach: Wachuma's Wave
Mantram is grounded in a reverence for the slowing of time which allows the natural reflective process to emerge. Heartbeat-like acoustic frame drum, overtone voice, Bansuri flute, didgeridoo, and Tamboura drones mix with a majestic tapestry of organic electronic textures, offering the sonic equivalent of gazing into timeless Mandala images found in classic sacred art.
Steve Roach has spent the last two decades charting a pathway into the primordial. With every album, you have the feeling of stumbling upon some ancient and secret ceremonial ritual. On Mantram he forges a fellowship with two other musicians. Mark Seelig's reverb-drenched bansuri flute is a nice addition to Roach's sound, almost bringing him back to melody. The Indian flute and a tamboura strummed ominously in the background give Roach an Eastern feel for the first time, but Byron Metcalf's frame drums turn Mantram toward a Persian groove that dances in cycling rhythmic figures. Painted on a broad canvas, Steve Roach's world is writ large with earth-shuddering textures, Metcalf's thundering frame drum, and Seelig's flute gliding like an avenging angel seeking a target. The constantly interweaving synthesizer, didgeridoo, harmonic singing, and tamboura churn in a surreal, slow motion dervish, spiraling down a labyrinthian ziggurat. -John Diliberto
MANTRAM is another collaborative trio effort which features percussionist Byron Metcalf, and this time instead of the vocal contributions of Jennifer Grais there's the bansuri flute and voice overtones of Mark Seelig. Once again, the listener is enveloped in a ritualistic otherworld. The eight tracks flow together without a break, and without titles, as well: in the shaman's world, labels are irrelevant. Sound-wise, it's an impressive technological achievement, but in spirit the music is as distant from 21st Century modernity as any sound can be. Slow, primitive, and aimed squarely towards inner space, MANTRAM might best be described as a series of meditative drones, were it not for the sound of Metcalf's equally primitive drum punctuation puncturing holes in the universal Om. Twice as mystical, but somehow less dark than Holding the Space, this recording may well be the best yet of Roach's collaborative works. - Darren Bergstein
Unfolding slowly, deliberately, patiently, the eight untitled sections of Mantram drift by. Whether playing this softly as background or loudly so you can feel the drumbeats in your bones, this is music designed to make an impact. The beat on “Part One” is slow and steady, subservient to the texture and mood of the surrounding atmospheres. The rhythm and other sounds in “Part Two” take on a more symbiotic relationship, inextricably linked such that any shift in the balance too much one way or the other would ruin the symmetry. In contrast, an active restless rhythm quickly asserts itself as the dominant element of “Part Three,” the other sounds swirling about it but ultimately playing a secondary role throughout. “Part Four” shifts the music into more ambient realms, but the beat never quite leaves. The lengthy fifth and sixth parts are especially good meditative music, though the entire disc certainly scores well in that regard. As is so often the case on projects involving Steve, contemporary and primitive sounds are blended effortlessly into an otherworldly ethereal sound. “Part Seven” goes back into a more tribal mode, with prominent beats and what is either Steve’s didgeridoo or Mark’s harmonic voice –a testament to their ability to seamlessly blend sounds, or my inability to discern them. “Part Eight” focuses on the rounded edges, the fringes, the soft textures, a suitably soothing way to end. One of the best ambient CDs of 2004, without a doubt. - Phil Derby
Mantram is an eight part continuum that captures the very best efforts of the three collaborators. A magcal dreamy trance-like dronescape whose heartbeat is Byron Metcalf’s frame drums, with Mark Seelig providing ethereal bansuri flute and harmonic overtone vocals, and Steve Roach contributing the electronic soundscape behind it all, via keyboard and guitar synths through indeterminate layers of processing, as well as didgeridoos; guest Stefin Gordon contributes tamboura as well. While there are track indexes, each of the pieces flow together seamlessly, and are meant to be absorbed as a continuous whole, preferably in full disc repeat mode; the drumming is low intensity and trancey enough that this is certainly one that could be appreciated as companion music for sleep; it has that cavernous quality that seems to graduate the listener through succeeding portals of subconsciousness. But it’s also defined well enough that it can be taken in as general de-stressing music, even behind the wheel – the drums provide just enough rhythmic definition and the bansuri’s just enough melodic foil to make it a satisfying experience in the conscious world, only occasionally descending into total cosmic drift, and for short periods at that. This is definitely one of the better collaborative projects involving Steve Roach.
The second in the three part Fever Dreams series involves many of the same musicians as Mantram – Metcalf on frame drums and percussion on most tracks, and Seelig plays flute on the busy “Energy Well”. Vocalist Jennifer Grais joins Roach and Metcalf on about half the pieces, bringing her floating ethereal voicings and cosmic chants into the mix of floating synths, didgeridoo, shifting soundworlds and textures. Unlike Mantram, however, Holding The Space is a more varied program that ratchets up the tribal rhythmic intensity in some parts, at other times relaxes out into pure floating cosmic drones (as on opener “The Wounded Healer” and “Opening The Space”); the somewhat varied approach from track to track underscores the variation as well, and most pieces fade to black between, making each a standalone entity. The sidelong closer “Holding The Space” brings all the elements together into a gentle trance-like cosmic drift, worth the price of admission by itself. – Peter Thelen
Cut from the same sessions that produced HOLDING THE SPACE: FEVER DREAMS II, this disc could be considered FD's mellower cousin. MANTRAM is a cool, calm, beat-enhanced exploration into creating a sort of sonic mandala -- a sacred image -- through music. It is a perfect CD for meditation. Steve Roach lays down the soundworld skeleton; Byron Metcalf pumps life into it with shamanic drumming; and Mark Seelig makes it breathe and dance with a beautiful selection of flutes. The eight pieces here, identified solely by number, are characterized by a gentle build and a perfectly unhurried feel. The standout track here is "Seven", where Metcalf's frame drum takes command of both the music and the listener. Give in to it. Each strike on the drumhead reverberates to the soul. You will emerge breathless from this track. Do yourself a favor: Press 'repeat' when you load this CD and just let it run. It melds beautifully into continuous play and brings a palpable serenity to the environment. This is bound to become a favorite. - John Shanahan
The Steve Roach web site states that this CD has "a reverence for the slowing of time which allows the natural reflective process to emerge". There is a slow heartbeat-like acoustic frame drum (played by Byron Metcalf) gently pumping among overtone voices, didgeridoo, bansuri flute, and tamboura drones. The ambient mix created here has the organic texture of a natural musical performance. Mark Seelig's bansuri weaves in and out of the mix lending subtle melody lines and Stefin Gordon fingers a droning tamboura beneath. The eight tracks are numbered rather than named and flow from one to another without the interruption of three or four second silences.
A swaying, undulating sound conjuring up the Indian sub-continent that disguises the underlying synths, guitars and electronic elements presenting them as a natural part of a timeless ceremonial music. Peaceful, contemplative, hypnotic -- the unhurried, rolling grooves and drones languorously revolve in soporific spirals and then fade away in turn to be replaced by the next rising movement.
Opulent kaleidoscopic, mandala-like discs of purple and cyan tones are adorned with middle-eastern scripts and motifs. Centrally there is the suggestion of something galactic -- a star burst, a nebula -- reminding us that this is not a repetition of something past. The lettering is an elegant script style beautifully complementing the imagery. The overall impression is one of past meets future -- just as the music is an evolution or extrapolation of the traditional so too the imagery evokes time in both directions.
Eight ethnically stained rhythmic canvases that clearly belong in one uniform gallery. Steve Roach has produced material with a "tribal" tenor before now -- but this CD more strongly than ever feels grounded in a particular unspecified middle-eastern location. There are melodies of a kind since the bansuri flute is primarily a melody instrument -- however, the melodies produced here are heavily draped in ambiance and dissolve easily into the drones and sustained tones smoothly heaving beneath. This is perhaps one of Steve's more easy to listen to albums -- feeling accessible even on a first hearing.
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM
Ethno-ambient travelers, those looking for a sustained exotic mood, anyone wanting ambient music with a global beat to it and an introspective tranquility. Karunesh too recently produced a CD built around Asian sounds in Call of the Mystic -- but, whereas, his music develops gentle new age melodies, MANTRAM is more sober, unstructured, mesmerising, and pensive.
This release from 2004 offers 74 minutes of reflective ambience. Roach plays analog, digital and guitar soundworlds and didgeridoo. Metcalf contributes percussion. Seelig contributes Bansuri flutes and harmonic voice. Stefin Gordon joins them on tamburas.
The voyage begins with delicate electronic textures of an atmospheric nature laced with soothingly breathy flutes. A sedate tempo emerges, defined by understated percussion that patters at the edge of perception, unintrusive but subliminally agitating the subconscious with their languid beats. The direction of this excursion immediately turns inward, away from the outside world of strobing distractions and blaring noise. The harmonic tuneage takes us deeper and deeper into the realm of thought, where only the self exists. Well, that's the point of this music, so we're off to a good start.
Once the ambience has immersed us in our cognitive core, it serves as a medium to conduct clarity. Inner perception is heightened by the relaxing soundscape, as the drifting melodies aid us in sorting through a hierarchy of priority. All things important and trivial are pushed aside, leaving a void that is enhanced by the expansively airy music. Now, the self can grow to fill this cerebral void, establishing its own ranking system for how important anything actually is. Steadfast and complacent, the soundscape reinforces this central calm, urging emptiness to comfortably fill itself from the depths of our psyche.
Stepping outside our head (for the briefest of moments), we evaluate the music, gauging it by external standards. What at first seems to be minimal and sparse is in fact lush and complex. The ethereal tonalities intertwine with expert craftsmanship, exhibiting evidence of meticulous arrangement. The atmosphere ebbs and flows, goaded subtly by the tenuous percussives. Flute textures merge with the electronics, not just following the sonic current but literally embellishing the stream and strengthening the calculated tranquilizing effect. Patterns alter as the passage continues, generating options in the direction of concentration. Overtone voices linger, injecting a humanity to the nebulous vapors. Objectively, one need not retreat into one's head to fully appreciate this music.
While it is up to us to choose the path of our inner meditation, the music does exert an astute influence, a partiality toward cohesion and productivity. Stressful rumination is extraneous here, while optimistic mentation tends to flow better with the ambient current. As the journey continues, purposeful energy slowly infuses the electronic mist and the rhythms grow increasingly motivational. Focus is not only enhanced, the flavor of that focus is guided toward constructive application.
Optimally, one might never notice the end of this music. The soundscape is so soporific, it could continue on inside our head, as endless and vast as our own thoughts. This lasting effect is as worthwhile as the music we used to achieve this state.