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Holding the Space : Fever Dreams II
Fever Dreams III
Within the opening moments of Fever Dreams' first track, “Wicked Dream” featuring Patrick O’Hearn on bass, it is clear that a new chapter is opening on Steve Roach’s long and winding pursuit of potent soundworlds far off the traveled path. The music’s foundation is built upon long mid-tempo hybrid grooves with strong bass elements created from a combination of acoustic and electronic means. Steve Roach’s atmospheric and loop-spun melodic guitar textures rise and fall, intermix with his synth and computer alchemy to create an aura of complex emotional import. The overall feeling of Fever Dreams is one shrouded in an exotic amber-colored light filtering through an overgrown mental landscape of last night’s lingering fever dreams; the sensual atmosphere is especially present on the 30 minute track “Tantra Mantra” featuring percussionist Byron Metcalf. This release of floating, hypnotic groove meditations sets the course on a new direction presented over the three interconnected “Fever releases” planned throughout 2004.
Astonishingly, Fever Dreams is Steve Roach's 54th album since he commenced recording in 1979 (this does not count compilations). The word "prolific" here is hopelessly inadequate. And while it's true that Roach has a "sound," he doesn't repeat himself; he's always on the edge of some abyss or deep inside it, mapping out new psychic and sonic terrain. Fever Dreams , comprised of four long pieces, is the first part of a projected trilogy. Recorded at Roach's Timeroom Studio in the Arizona desert, it reflects the beginning of a new sound world journey, one with few signposts, where slowly evolving nocturnal grooves are articulated through washed-out keyboards, drifting loops, shakers, hand drums, hybrid percussion instruments, guitars, basses, and, of course, the expanse of inner space that comes from the very center of silence. Roach has enlisted the help of bassist Patrick O'Hearn on this project. O'Hearn 's own records in the past have explored the notion of groove and pulse, as well as more spectral soundscapes, but he has never appeared in a setting like this one. Roach's reliance on the bass in these four elongated pieces is unprecedented in his own work. There are no funky popping lines or intricate runs here, though on "Fever Pulse" the throb of two overlapping, staggered basses and a direct percussive counterpoint become the muted if undeniable soul of the composition. The centerpiece of the album is "Tantra Mantra," which is nearly half an hour in length. Its groove is so subtle and blurry, and yet so insistent, that it's difficult to know at what point it has utterly taken over the listener's consciousness. It's sultry, steamy, and sexual in an archetypal way; it doesn't drift so much as wander in widening circles, from the body's pleasure center -- the mind -- outward to its sense perceptions and extremities. This is a music of pure, gently undulating writhe, where perception and feeling become one and the same. The album closes with "Moved Beyond," which seems to articulate the notion that what has come before on this set was a precursor to this new form of emptiness. Everything exists in this space; it's full and breathing, shimmering with bliss. Sound emanates from the shadows and returns there. The grooves offer direction, but they are impressions rather than road maps. If one attaches to the sound of a particular drum, one misses the others. Inside this abundant void is the blossoming not only of rhythm, whisper, and unidentifiable sonics, but their underside, as the organization of space according to a silence full of symbols, movements, and breaths that exist simultaneously inside and outside the music. Once again, Steve Roach has given listeners new vistas to encounter and to ponder, but this time, the sacred body -- both rainbow and physical -- is whispered to as well as the emotions and the mind. Fever Dreams is the sound of becoming suddenly awake, aware of what has transpired on a sub- or unconscious level, as if from a fever dream. -- Thom Jurek
Fever Dreams (part one), the first installment in a planned Fever Dreams trilogy, is a return to Steve Roach’s signature tribal-ambient sound from the notably more spacious and expansive soundworlds of last year’s Mystic Chords & Sacred Spaces and Texture Maps releases. This lengthy, seamlessly bridged four-track album is distinguished by its thicker earthy timbres and electro-organic textures. Patrick O’hearn lends rhythmic bass guitar to this album along with Byron Metcaff on percussion. The album opens with “Wicked Dream” as simmering low chords are joined by shakers and swooping percussion. Towards the latter part of the track discordant tones hover about, lending an eerie touch. Next is my favorite of the four – the faster-paced “Fever Pulse,” which is driven by a thermal tempo and stormy tonal-strands (Core and On this Planet both come to mind). The minimal techno-tribal drumming on this piece actually reminds me of a kettle of water boiling on the stove. The pace is slowed a bit for the third track, “Tantra Mantra”, where the drumming becomes more spatial and echoed. This is the longest piece on the album clocking in at just under half an hour. Things slowly begin to dissipate on the closing “Moved Beyond”, before the percussion gradually fades into murky oblivion. Fever Dreams is a superb effort from a first rate sound sculpturer with the help of two very fine musicians. Although the album remains rather low-key in spite of its prominent tribal drumming, it’s thoroughly fun to hear – especially with headphones. It elicits the experience of venturing through a shrouded jungle while evoking a certain sense of equivocal danger. The sonic temperatures remain elevated throughout – whether lowly simmering or coming to a rapid boil. This is a recommended first chapter in a saga that is to be continued! - Candi Brammer
Steve Roach is certainly no stranger to these "pages" with a constant flow of albums on various labels in different styles, but always with the same attention to quality and diversity that has made him one of America's pre-eminent electronic musicians. After a series of very fine albums, including the staggering four-CD Mystic Chords and Sacred Spaces, Roach shifts gears slightly with a more immediately accessible, though no less representative, series of trance-jam albums, of which Fever Dreams is part one. The instrumentation used ought to be familiar to those who've been following Roach's travels over the past few years, though it is used to a significantly different effect on this particular album.
Fever Dreams contains four extremely long tracks, each an extended meditation largely around one theme per track. "Wicked Dream" begins the album with Roach's vast synth-atmospheres backed with languid, down-tempo percussion--a loping tribal theme, rather than the intense drums of the very fine Trance Spirits. A snaky bassline, courtesy of Patrick O'Hearn, enters the fray, bringing a Bill Laswell inflection to the track, like a more ambient Ekstasis, minus Nicky Skopelitis's incendiary guitarwork. Though the title conjures up a sticky tribal nightmare, the sound here is more sexual, grooving, and insistent. The underlying synth washes are excellent, managing to keep the track somewhat progressive over its almost nineteen minute length. Later in the track, the atmosphere takes over entirely, as the bass and percussion are abandoned "Fever Pulse" utilizes similar elements, though is more dream-like and nebulous when compared with track one. A percussion loop filled in with Roach's signature guitar atmospheres drives the track forward; a gently paced, though intense, journey above humid forests--both relaxing and entrancing. Will Merkle's basswork provides just the right amount of deep shading--it is never obtrusive, and manages to swell along with the atmospheres without overpowering them. The shortest track at ten and a half minutes, "Fever Pulse" gets closer to the idea of psychoactive dream journeys than its predecessor on the album. Next is "Tantra Mantra," the thirty minute centerpiece of the album, and also something of a statement of intent for the overarching series, I gather. The sexual insistency from the first track returns, but is more understated and alluring. Excellent, varied percussion by Byron Metcalfe conjoined with guitar and bass atmospheres, and tense synth sonics, make for the best and most quietly intense track on the CD. "Tantra Mantra" is ten minutes longer than "Wicked Dream" and goes by in a sweltering flash; one of Roach's strongest pieces in the tribal vein since Origins and Artifacts. Hopefully this sound will inform the later albums in the series. Finally, "Moved Beyond" is a stripped-down version of "Tantra Mantra" with ghostly guitar harmonics, bass pulses, and somewhat shrill slices of sound that recall InnerZone and Spirit Dome. This track is effective in conveying the fever dream; a familiar, though foreign, mish-mash of fears, desires, and strange associations, tied up in surprising and unexpected ways.
Personally, I prefer Roach's recent, blisteringly intense, tribal works (The Serpent's Lair, Trance Spirits), over Fever Dreams's somewhat "slow and low" offering. This album does, however, have a lot going for it, especially for those Roach-listeners who felt his recent material was either "too ambient" or "too loud and tribal." Indeed, Fever Dreams would make a great introduction for the listener curious about Roach's sound, but mystified about where to begin in his vast discography. Special praise should go to the creator of the artwork, who manages to portray the strange, colorful, earthly sound environment of the music with the album graphics: a jumble of ancient ruins, natural detritus, swirled and blurry colors. While Fever Dreams may not be the strongest work I've heard from Roach, it does signal an intriguing new direction in his musical career. This career seems more and more a journey in pursuit of an artistic ideal with every Roach release, a constant reach toward expressing the ineffable, humanistic unconscious, with varying degrees of success. Regardless, Fever Dreams continues to prove that following that muse along with Roach is one of electronic music's most intoxicating delights - Brian Bieniowski
| 9 of 10 stars | I've read online that this is something like Roach's 54th album in the past quarter of a century. Now that's one amazing catalog, to say the least. However, the man is not content to rest on his laurels and has given us one sensual exotic sonic adventure with this release. The mood is set with the opening track, Wicked Dream, as Roach's drifting loops and guitar washes are met with Patrick O'Hearn (given co-writing credit on this tune) on bass, putting down a groove that just can't be denied. The music pulls you in and you suddenly find yourself in a steamy jungle with a shaman handing you a cup of some dark brew. Then the fun really begins! This song reminds one of some of the Laswell / Namlook collaborations (which is a very good thing, in my book).
Bass (and it's link to the groove) seems very dominant throughout the recording, with two musicians on that instrument in addition to Roach. The complex percussion, however, comes in a close second in terms of dominance, with a lot of tribal sounds from acoustic percussion as well as electronic rhythms. Byron Metcalf, percussionist extraordinaire, appears again with Roach on two of these tracks. The duo have worked together on several of each other's solo albums, and it is a great blending of talent. Metcalf puts down some marvelous frame drum work on Tantra Mantra, the half an hour opus on this CD.
The bewitching cover represents the music well in that it is a collage of temple ruins, mountain heights, and swirling mysteries. This is the first of a trilogy of related recordings set to come out this year, and I can hardly wait to hear the next phase. - Loren Bacon
You certainly can't blame Steve Roach for wanting to get his funk on, even if it's just a little funk. After a series of successful CDs exploring rhythmless soundworlds, Roach returns to the beat with Fever Dreams Part One, where familiar elements of his recent recordings hook back up with the subtle tribal percussion elements from earlier pieces such as Dreamtime Return, Early Man, and Truth and Beauty.
Roach has always worked pure magic with the tribal sensibility, and Fever Dreams is no exception. Here, soundworlds play a grounding role for the bass and drum loops that take center stage. Each long track--the shortest of the four running 10 and a half minutes--mixes laid-back grooves with a certain sinister air--that serpentine, entrance-to-the-lower-world feel that while at times dark is nonetheless forcibly soothing. Bass guitar from Patrick O'Hearn and Will Merkle nicely anchor the first two tracks and lend that tinge of funk that separates the CD from the latest stuff. Shamanic percussionist Byron Metcalf adds frame drum on the last two tracks, including the nicely understated "Tantra Mantra," which is bound to dredge some primitive memory up out of your subconscious.
Kudos also to photographer Michel Noel for the wonderful wraparound cover art that truly sets the feel for the disjointed journey that lies within.
While at times Fever Dreams feels like something you've heard before, some previously visited soundworld but with drums, it is nevertheless another rich addition to Roach's body of work--a piece that looks both forward and back at the same time. Watch for two more parts of Fever Dream across 2004.
This CD from 2004 offers 73 minutes of softly rhythmic ambience. Some of Roach's finest moments employ tenuous percussive threads, usually of a remote tribal disposition. This music falls squarely into that cherished category. The introduction of basslines provides an evolutionary bump for the tuneage, transporting Roach's atmospheric soundscapes into a realm that seethes with undercurrents of earthy quality. The sedative nature of this music is tinged with dreamlike tones, inverting the sonic drift from expansive conditions to inner space. The tunes ooze among the cerebral folds, enhancing the brain's synaptic connections with synthetic bonds. Ethereal tonalities become akin to moody ruminations, goading turgid thoughts into a serene pool that is stirred only by intriguing embellishments of electronic creation. Stress fades, swallowed by the cloud-like sonic formations. Tension is replaced by curiosity. The gentle patter of almost subliminal percussion blends with the flux of delicate synthetic textures that reverberate with psychic elation. Fervent but tranquil, these rhythms stimulate the listener more than the melody, existing as a subtle counterpoint to the drifting currents of ambient pulsations. The electronics sigh and undulate high overhead, while the immediate environs swarm with ghostly harmonics designed to lull and relax. - Matt Howarth
Fever Dreams is close to 74 minutes of meditative, ambient, multi-layered percussion and bass, wherein each line flaunts its own distinct rhythm, cascading over dreamy, provocative landscapes of tricked-out, penetrating keyboards. The musical journey allures and compels the listener to have an audio experience that is anything but passive. This is Roach’s 54th album, and as always, he manages to enter new auditory frontiers. The bass lines from Patrick O’hearn, met with Byron Metcalf’s commanding percussion, become subliminal, hypnotic, danceable grooves, layered over a carpet of magical keyboards on “Wicked Dreams.” “Fever Pulse” is the second opus on the album, wherein primal meets prescient. “Tantra Mantra’ enters another dimension, with its fancy footwork of layered, up-tempo rhythms, and other-worldy, elusive melody, where sounds transcends. evolves and dissolves into harmonic blend of flowing rhythm. Keyboards pierce through a wall of soft rhythmic pulsation in this track, which lasts almost 30 minutes. Cascading rhythms percolate over a series of eclectic, tunneling tonalities, creating an effect that is relaxing, while still energizing, because of the pace of bass and drums. “Moved Beyond”, a relentless and staggering composition, is the final track, and perhaps the best of this album. Sonically mind altering, seductive, and calming, the composition is a musical Valium, a rhythmic sort of Mandrake. Steve Roach makes music that is an innovative, healing piece of art. -Phyllis Pollack