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Journey of One 2-CD
All Is Now (2-CD)
Live at SoundQuest Fest
This release presents perhaps the most intense set of live sequencer music you will ever experience. Using all analog hardware gear (with what amounted to an entire studio setup on stage) the development of the pieces and the power of the sound is unmatched. Those who love the high-energy dramatic sequencer era of Steve's work will love this release. Over 70 minutes total playing time.
Before the melding of tribal beats with electronic wizardry, there were the spacious atmospheres of synth and sequencer; Steve Roach originally released the energetic Stormwarning in 1989, and now offers an expanded (three "days" instead of only two) re-release. And 10 years later... it's still a dazzling display. These are fairly lengthy live tracks, recorded without the aid of backup tapes, overdubs or remixing (and engineered by this month's interviewee, Loren Nerell). Not as crisply pristine as his early studio work (like STRUCTURES FROM SILENCE), a certain small amount of edginess runs through these pieces, adding to their decidedly "weather-like" atmospherics. It seems incredible that the multiple levels of vigorously intricate sonic activity were performed by one man in one session.
After a seven-minute intro of organically wafting layers, "Day One" receives wave after wave of super-arpeggiated cycles trilling over streaming beds of synth strata. Equally rapid drumbeats are interwoven between passages, and meandering bell-like tones play over the rolling patterns. The rollicking soundwaves begin to subside, leaving a calmer, though still actively whirling stratosphere.
Darkly gathering swells signal the dawn of "Day Two" (30:16), eventually overtaken by a rhythmic shower of rapid-fire notes through which rays of denser synth shines. Light e-percussion accents the continually evolving flow. Through energetic keyboarding, certain passages attain a moodily soaring atmosphere, sometimes surging, other times receding. As the piece reaches its twilight, everything has hushed and slowed to a more restful pace.
In 1991, during Roach's first concert tour in Germany, "Day Three" (21:02) was documented, with acknowledgment of influence going out to Klaus Schulze. Smooth gusts blow in over a lush synthstream which is stirred by a loping, rhythmic pattern and intertwined with sinuous threads. Less aggressive than the previous pieces, the track still manages to work up a fair amount of energy, gradually slowing to a plodding replica of its maximum pace, still infused with gusty streamers of light synth. Certainly worthy of re-release, Stormwarning is a dramatic panorama from Steve Roach's earlier days. Even if they've heard it before, Roach fans can experience the addition of a new track, and the unexposed have everything to gain. Analog aficionados will definitely find a lot to love, too. While I'm personally more fond of Roach's later ethno-tribal influences, I'm bestowing an 8.4 rating for these impressive synthstorms.
Set 1 (May 10, 1985 at California Poly in Ramona, California) begins with softly sashaying tonalities that eventually undergo evolutions of a haunting nature. The emergence of a surging keyboard riff lends the music substance and puissance. The keys are subjected to nimble fingers that generate a lively melody which is soon joined by demonstrative percussion. (Note: all the sounds here and the other sets are performed live with no prerecorded backing tapes or subsequent overdubs.) As the rhythms become progressively more intricate, the interplay with the sneakily mutating keyboard sequence achieves a state of infectious euphoria. A point is reached whereat additional riffs enter the flow: squealing chords that skitter like gems across a field of ice, twinkling melodies that ring like xylophonic icicles, and even a stretch in which the spry keys bear influences of Philip Glass in their urgent repetition. But the overall effect is purely Roach, exhibiting his crafty style of multilayered patterns merging to present undulant tuneage.
Set 2 (January 17, 1987 at Saddleback College in California) offers a gutsier opening, wherein deep bass pulsations pepper the airy texturals. A frenzy of hyperactive keys emerges and expands until these fleet sequences have fused into a blaze of sonic propulsion. Additional, sweeter keys swing into play atop this locomotion, soon joined by regally toned chords. The music becomes a seething gestalt of almost breakneck riffs, yet the result is an appealing one that entrances the listener with its gushing charisma. As the piece continues, diverse riffs surface to join the racing flow, embellishing the tune with their melodies before being replaced by yet another progressive escalation. Eventually, the music reaches a stage of subdued frenzy, and the riffs (accompanied now by periodic drums) express themselves in more dignified manner as things gradually wind down.
Set 3 (October 2, 1991 in Paderborn, Germany) displays a more stately mode of Roach's active music. Here, the chords resonate with a regal grandeur. The rhythms creep into the mix to pursue a distinctly Berlin mood. The interplay of elements grows complex, serpentine, bewitching. Additional electronics and rhythms alter the music's texture while retaining its seductive flow. The ongoing sonic spectacle enters a more passive phase before fading away.
This release is an excellent example of Roach's more active electronic music. -Matt Howarth