Steve Roach & Erik Wøllo: The Road Eternal (CD)


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Product Description

1. The Road Eternal 21:21
2. Depart At Sunrise 09:16
3. The Next Place 12:51
4. First Twilight 04:35
5. Travel By Moonlight 10:06
6. Night Strands 05:16

“The combined efforts of ambient masters Steve Roach and Erik Wøllo have created an extraordinary cerebral flow of ambient music that is at once adrenaline pumping, yet mesmerizing.”

Following their collaboration Stream of Thoughts (Projekt, 2009) Roach and Wøllo reunite to travel The Road Eternal: an electronic/ambient path filled with passion and beauty. Six engaging and expansive rhythmic sequencer-based tracks intersperse with ambient zones and soaring electric guitar textures highlighting sparse, arching thematic lines.  

Wherein their first collaboration blended a number of shorter passages into a spellbinding whole, The Road Eternal is six longer compositions that build upon a basis of complex, inventive and hypnotic sequencer patterns. Intricate and ever-changing rhythmic cycles merge with melodic phrases creating a compelling groundwork that propels the music forwards. With inspiration drawn in part from classic trance-inducing electronic music with early German roots, the project takes on an interwoven structure draped with harmonic and melodic passages. The route through the music offers different perspectives to hear or “see” on every listen.

This is the sound of big skies, open roads and soaring thoughts pulling one towards the next destination; reflected in the music is the counterplay of long and meditative rhythmic zones and constellation-like melodic elements filled with space. The tracks transpose two different worlds: Steve’s southwestern desert habitat and Erik’s home base in Norway.  The sum of these two environments becomes a hybrid landscape of new discovery. “We are both passionate about the observation of nature and the poetic character of natural surroundings,” Erik says, “The ways in which we relate to this, as well as the awareness of the ongoing passage of time. These ideas have been a driving force behind our whole artistic careers, and it is strongly reflected in this collaboration.”

“In our music,” Steve reflects, “a central pulse and steady momentum is present. The sensation is a consistent feeling of travel. Whether you’re driving, flying, riding a train or some other form of transportation, the sound and vibration enters your body and becomes part of the meditation of the travel experience. Listening to these tracks while traveling allows the music to merge with the experience arriving at an integrated place where thoughts and imagination are unified as a soundtrack for one’s own road movie. The metaphor of ‘the road eternal in the creative process’ is the other element of the album title: the road the artist travels with the allure of discovering what is next around the corner.”

The project began in early 2010 and shifted into high gear when Erik traveled to Tucson that fall to perform at the SoundQuest Fest. After the concert, the two artists holed-up in The Timeroom Studio for a few days channeling the energy from the fest to work non-stop towards The Road Eternal‘s completion.  Roach states, “This is the music I have wanted to create with Erik since I first heard his classic Traces release way back in the 80’s.”  

With Steve on analog sequencing, electronic percussion and most of the zones and atmospheres, Erik focuses on his processed, textural, and melodic elements while performing on various guitars and guitar synthesizers. The Road Eternal strikes a perfect balance of the artists’ two distinct styles and common ground.

The sound is vibrant, emotional, full of shimmering light and saturated with optimism. With each artist having devoted over 30 years to their art, this album flows with the understanding and skill that comes from this experience, bringing their specialties together in the true spirit of collaboration.

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Weight .3 lbs


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  1. Reviews Editor

    From Hypnagogue

    I’m pairing these reviews together because they more or less stem from the same creative space. Erik Wøllo came to Tucson, Arizona, as part of Steve Roach’s SoundQuest Fest 2011. He played his superb piece, The Gateway, live during the show. Afterward, Wøllo and Roach seized upon the creative momentum that came out of the concert and spent the next few days at Roach’s Timeroom studio finishing up work they had started earlier in the year, which would become The Road Eternal.

    It’s not easy for me to be objective about Live at SoundQuest Fest because I was there, and it was something of a defining moment for me as an ambient music fan. I’ve been into Roach’s music since the 80s and am particularly appreciative of his tribal work. I was out in the desert for the first time. And I was among a gathering of my electro-tribe, meeting many of the people whose music I’ve come to appreciate over the years. So listening to this slice of Roach’s day-closing set carries a lot of connotations for me.

    The work here lands squarely in future-primitive space, intertwining rapid-fire analog/sequencer foundations and long, drifting pads with deep, shamanic excursions. It kicks off with the nearly 30-minute “Momentum of Desire,” beginning with Roach working his synths solo, shifting from beatless washes to pulsing energy. The mood transforms as Byron Metcalf enters to bring a bit of tribal juju with shakers, rattles and drums at the start of “Medicine of the Moment,” and we leave the present behind. This is the start of a 25-minute long deep shamanic groove that runs through the fiery “Thunderwalkers.” As Roach and Metcalf prepare the space, didgeridoo players Dashmesh Khalsa and Brian Parnham enter, each taking up a six-foot stick, to trade otherworldly tones and pour them into the proceedings. The feeling takes on a sacred air as the quartet craft a largely improvised, live-looped atmosphere that’s all about instinct and existing in the energy of the moment. Musical intent is left behind in lieu of crafting a response-driven sound-image. It wraps around you. Roach’s ocarina slithers through; the didgeridoos bark, snarl and cajole; shadowy drones lay over everything, As the set moves into “Thunderwalkers,” Metcalf’s rhythms crack the darkness and energize the space with a living pulse. Power absolutely courses through every moment of this track. I love the chant sounds around the 7 minute mark–it’s Roach leaning into the mic with a “yyyah,” the single voice processed into a tribal call. Khalsa leads the way through the short, transformational track “Morphic” with more growling and yelping didge, the sounds intensified and thickened by Roach at the soundboard. Then it’s left to Roach to cool down the moment and bring it back toward the now with the pure synth work of “Off Planet Passage.” Echoes of Metcalf’s skins anchor the sound as it winds toward a quiet close.

    Aside from capturing the energy of this superb grouping, Live at SoundQuest Fest also benefits from the way it carries reminders and hints of work past and future. The tribal sections call up thoughts of Dream Tracker, The Desert Inbetween and Serpent’s Lair–while also hinting at that disc’s upcoming follow-up; the analog work pulls from the energetic sources that inform and infuse so much of Roach’s recent solo work, including Immersion 5, which pulls from “Off Planet Passage.” An excellent record of a fantastic event.

    If SoundQuest pulls the listener down into primal-memory introspection, The Road Eternal lifts them into a more optimistic and upbeat state of mind. The energy of rhythmic sequencers kicks in right away, a liquid shimmer that gleams across most of the tracks. Wøllo’s guitar hums and sings its way through the mix in an easy lilt that plays neatly off the geometries of the sequencer runs. (It’s at its finest in the cool coursings of “The Next Place” or softly sighing as the voice in “Night Strands.”) This is a work about velocity and movement, about going forward. Unlike the duo’s previous effort, Stream of Thought, which existed a moment at a time, The Road Eternal sets its focus squarely on the horizon and heads for it. But it’s not all pedal-to-the-metal. After revving the engine with the title track, “Depart At Sunrise” coasts into view, a panoramic vista opening slowly in front of you. The sequencers get dialed back a touch to make space for long pads and crunchy analog synth effects. “First Twilight” appropriately slows to a gentle ambient drift, Roach and Wøllo tinting their shared sky with lush aural colors fading into night. “Travel by Moonlight” eases the tempo back up, underscored by a rich, repeating bass pulse. Wøllo’s guitar soars as counterpoint.

    Roach notes on his site: “Listening to these tracks while traveling allows the music to merge with the experience arriving at an integrated place where thoughts and imagination are unified as a soundtrack for one’s own road movie.” I’ll attest to that. The Road Eternal has softened many a commute and provided the incidental music for thought-filled evening drives home. Listen, and see where the music takes you.

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