2 OmniGen 5:37
3 Ecdysis Activation 3:21
4 Primal Confluence 6:35
5 Erososphere 7:38
6 Atrium 3:16
7 The Biomechanoid Lifecycle Revealed 10:19
8 BioSense 7:19
9 Amniotic Universe 20:29
Total Time 70:19
Co-creation across an ocean of shifting sonic paradigms
Pushing the boundaries of perception-expanding music, Steve Roach and Robert Logan release two vastly different transmissions of powerful emotion and exploration.
Biosonic’s elegant futurism and Second Nature’s romantic minimalism are distinct yet linked through a passion for engaging, subtle body-mind states. The former’s darkly ecstatic, deeply-layered, electro-neural atmosphere contrasts with the latter’s nuanced, sparse, ambient-atmospherics and processed-piano tone paintings.
Biosonic’s labyrinth of bio-electrical rhythmic pieces mixes with passages of deep drifting textural magnetism. Tracks possessed with intense fire and driving dynamism push down to the molecular level, while entrancing groovescapes inhabit new textural worlds of mind-expanding power. The music’s intention is ecstasy and intensity – like the frenzied rush of red blood cells, nerve impulses or the firing of pistons – such tendencies are balanced by an undercurrent of tranquility and yearning. This yearning finds a full embrace in the companion release Second Nature, a shadowplay of gentle reflection and repose. The tone and warmth of processed electric grand piano mixed with atmospheric synth textures are the grounding point for an emotive reflective watercourse of harmony, melody, texture and space woven together with an innate human sense of tension and release.
The journey that led to the creation of these albums is a story unto itself.
Twenty-eight-year-old England-based Logan has been a fan of sixty-one-year-old American ambient innovator Roach’s music since first discovering it at the age of thirteen. Logan’s father introduced electronic music into Logan’s life at a young age; soon thereafter, an Amazon search turned up Roach’s The Magnificent Void, a life-changing listening experience for the evolving artist.
Logan remembers, “I had been looking for nourishing, truly mysterious, deep-space music being carved out by current artists in modern studios; with Void, the album was everything I dreamed of and much more. As a teenager, I went on umpteen mind-bending, cosmic trips of the imagination to that album; I soon began collecting Steve’s music. It soundtracked many blissful journeys in the night travels across Europe.”
Logan’s father was a teacher, and he encouraged his students to draw pictures in response to albums he played for them. In the mid-2000’s he played Roach’s music, then collected the drawings and sent them to Roach along with a CD of Logan’s ambient music.
A correspondence grew between the two artists separated by more than thirty years of experience; the mutual appreciation was immediate. As Roach recalls, “I was instantly amazed upon hearing Robert’s first CD. His music was already emoting at a very high level that seemed well beyond his years. We began a long-distance collaboration fusing and morphing our approaches and unique languages into a new hybrid of electronic music.”
Over the course of four years, the two traded sound files with regular phone sessions and emails mapping out the vision and pieces that would become Biosonic. Logan and Roach describe the work, “Biosonic expresses a kinetic energy that drives the imagination channeled through the tools of hypersonic creation. The expressions rise up from the unconsciousness; the bio/machine-theme mushrooms outwards in this sonic fantasy. It emerges from the pulses and rhythms of the body while also diving consciously into expressing fractalized patterns which find parallel in the natural world, the universe and beyond. This is a vivid dream world for the bio-mechanical era where the lines between human and machine dissolve and reach moments of peak perception.”
In late 2015, Logan visited Roach’s Timehouse studio in Arizona for an intensive to put the finishing touches on the album; the creative session-environment inspired an entirely new project. A second album was created unexpectedly.
Roach says, “Second Nature emerged directly from instinct, the call and response to the moment between two artists interacting together in the studio for the first time. It’s a ‘less is more’ minimalist statement. The balance of ambiguity and quiet reflection is present in this set of pieces of fleeting emotional weight. I utilized the Timehouse studio as an instrument, working with my beloved vintage analog synths, live looping, mixing and effects processing. This created the opening for Robert to focus solely on playing processed electric grand piano; it evoked a new way of performing, drawing on his years of experience with the instrument. Over three days, the music emerged without hesitation. The album title perfectly speaks to the feeling we had with this process; it flowed forth as if by second nature.”
Biosonic and Second Nature are two powerful, distinct yet interconnected releases. While in dramatic contrast to each other, the potency of the music on these releases is a testament to the agility that exists between these two artists. It reveals their immediate response to a universe of emotion and stimulated mental states felt and expressed in this pure transmission. The music celebrates the energy of being fully alive, engaging the senses, opening to a vast and fascinating world of Biosonics: body, mind and heart sound art for TODAY.
Reviews Editor –
The story behind the creation of BioSonic and Second Nature, the collaborative and thematically linked albums from Steve Roach and Robert Logan, is the stuff of young-ambient-musician dreams. Logan, a Roach fan since the age of 13 whose own work is profoundly inspired by him, began corresponding with Roach about 15 years ago. In his initial contact, he included a CD of his own music. Roach says that he found Logan’s music to be “…already emoting at a very high level that seemed well beyond his years.” The two began on some intercontinental collaboration—Logan in England, Roach in the American southwest—the results of which are expressed in these two works.
As much of a Roach fan as I am, if you just sat me down and hit play on BioSonic, I would not have identified it as his work. The mechanistic clicks, whirs, and gurgles, like some robotic boot-up coming on line, instantly grab my attention but definitely do not shout “Steve Roach.” As it transposes itself into a pleasantly plodding rhythm and the air fills with a dizzying array of sounds, I find that it wouldn’t matter who was at the controls—it’s easy to hear from early on that this will be a good ride. After that first track, I pick up more of Roach’s work seeping into the deep mix. Chugging percussive tones and a feeling of electronic velocity on “OmniGen” bring up memories of Trance Spirits as Roach and Logan thicken and intensify a storm-swirl of sound. The wall they create is fantastically dense, and the way it unloads into the quieter environs of “Ecdysis Activation” has a sense of release to it. It may come as no surprise to Roach listeners that the shifts in tempo and tone here are absolutely fluid and organic. It’s pure flow, no pun intended, weaving from the gallop of “Primal Confluence” (where the Trance Spiritconnection is even stronger) to the slow, humid churn of “Erososphere” and back up into the more energized playfulness of “The Biomechinoid Liefcycle Revealed.” That track is an ear-tickling mass of analog chirp and twitter, tiny sounds filling your head in swarms. While this whole album is a blast with headphones, this is the track that warrants putting them on in the first place. The title track follows, keeping the throttle jammed open while the duo pull an endless batch of fresh, odd sounds out of their gear and send them ricocheting around the space. Highly infectious.
Second Nature sits on the other end of the spectrum, four quiet tracks that stretch roach_secondcalmly outward. The title track and “Mystic Drift” are longer than the other two, given half an hour and 22 minutes, respectively, to course past. Unlike the long-distance relationship that ideated BioSonic, this was created with the artists in the studio together for the first time, finding an ideal meeting point of concept and technique. While Roach handles the electronic atmospheres, Logan takes to the grand piano and sets thoughtful notes floating. The piano is at its most forward in “Shadowspeak,” something of a nocturne played out slowly, its resonant notes forming chords in the background. On “Mystic Drift,” the song slows further, a distant dream-element calling out in a widening wash of warm ambient textures. Roach’s work on this track is remarkably soft, a head-soothing blend of tones that completely remove the listener to a very pleasant elsewhere. The title track is similar in structure and equally immersive. Touches of tension slip in at times with short-of-dissonant tones that raise up lightly in the flow, but the listener remains well within the sound for this lush half-hour ride.
These are two superb releases, and their difference in approach makes them that much more interesting. I enjoy the strong vibrancy and velocity of BioSonic and its hard, metallic edges. And I enjoy Second Nature for its slow beauty and the way it works its emotive magic at low volumes. Second Nature is bound to get a lot of looping play as listeners just allow it to fill their space. I had not realized (literally until getting to this point in my review and doing some digging) that Robert Logan formerly recorded as Sense Project—I believe I reviewed his release, The Sublime, back when it was released in 2008, and I have played his work on my podcast. I do not recall being as moved by that album as I am by these, but needless to say, Mr. Logan has my full attention now. These are must-hear albums.
Reviews Editor –
From Synth & Sequences
Here is a new chapter in very prestigious career of Steve Roach. This time he teams up with a young jewel of EM from England Robert Logan. The genesis of this new adventure in sounds begins at the very beginning of 2000’s when Robert Logan discovers The Magnificent Void. It’s a lightning stroke for the young person Logan who, at 13 years, goes off to explore of Steve Roach’s immense discography. It’s the father of the young Englishman who has started the whole thing by sending to Steve Roach the drawings that his students realized by listening to the albums of the sculptor of sounds and tones of the Earth. Within those correspondences he also sent the ambient music of his son. It’s how the story took shape 4 years ago. They were talking on phone quite often, exchanging ideas and visions as well music files over the Net until they meet at the end of 2015. Two albums will go out of these sessions; the very ambient and meditative Second Nature, which was not planned at all, and this Biosonic which is a long mosaic of 70 minutes where some very esoteric ambiences switch moods and shapes for rhythms of fire which are muddled up by essences of Electronica and which are darkened by organic filters, otherwise industrial. A fabulous rendezvous between 2 artists of which the difference in age, not far from 33 years, doesn’t stain nor has any shadow on the passions which drive them.
Those who are familiar with the very Psybient and Industrial approach of Robert Logan, I make a reference to his Inscape album here, will be on familiar ground with the flora of cavernous noises and the suspended beatings which liven up the opening of “Desire: Birth”. Beats of the Earth and its fires stir up the fire over an omnivore fauna. The color and the aggressiveness of the tones reaches its paroxysm up until the dawn of the first minute, where “Desire: Birth” takes the shape of a nice down-tempo. A Chill Out covered with the serenity of the synth layers whose delicate solos roll in loops and dance among allegorical hoops. Quiet the rhythm is like the steps of a wolf which terrifies its prey (moreover aren’t shouts that we hear?), surfing between a half swiftness and an ambient skeleton decorated with the most beautiful contrasts of psybient. “OmniGen” is in the purest tradition of Steve Roach’s aboriginal rhythms. The pace is intense and breathless, even in its static envelope, with a flight of percussions which bludgeon the hyper ventilated breaths of a ghost tribe. More ethereal, the finale throws itself into the quiet “Ecdysis Activation” and of its sleepy rhythm which wakes up to reach the excitement peak of the tribal dance in “Primal Confluence”. Here the percussions trample with fury in a minimalist pattern fed by organic effects which act as a long sonic sling-shot. Contained in its passive fury, the rhythm is became a victim of its charm with a structure which becomes a little bit hopping (an organic hip-hop maybe?) and an atmosphere which gets more and more stifling. “Erosphere” borrows a little quieter path with another slow, lascivious rhythm which is loaded of ambiosonic layers. It’s Dark Ambient coated by Steve Roach’s introspections from his Early Man period. The same goes for “The Biomechanoid Lifecycle Revealed” where Robert Logan injects his organic layers in an approach which flirts with psybient. The structure evolves subtly, the bewitchment separating us from the reality, to reach a kind of crescendo raised on good percussions and an increase in sounds of the Earth’s noises. “Atrium” leads us back a little to the basis of Steve Roach’s tribal anthem and music with a passive rhythm. It’s like a trance where those souls fed by morphic drugs illuminate their visions in unison, whereas “Biosensible” leads us to the very dynamical Electronica of Robert Logan. This is quite an interesting track. “Amniotic Universe” ends Biosonic on a slow shamanic procession wrapped by these synth layers perfumed of incantatory mysticism. The first 10 minutes are masterful while the last 10 ones crumble the time with a symphony of hollow winds which blows on a plain of which the reliefs make sing the ambiences.
Once again Steve Roach strikes a big blow of seduction. Certainly that, with the impressive discography to his credit, the sound poet of the Earth tends in revisited his roots but just it takes to avoid the traps of the redundancy, even if scents of déjà-entendu float all over Biosonic. Robert Logan’s contribution brings an interesting dimension to the music of Steve Roach by injecting a dose of psychedelism and Electronica buried in a sound fauna which up to now had slipped to the synthesist and sculptor of sounds of California. A very beautiful album which is certainly going to please the fans Steve Roach’s tribal and shamanic approach. -Sylvain Lupari
Reviews Editor –
From Sounds Behind the Corner
La matassa del duo composto dall’inossidabile Steve Roach, in questa nova avventura coadiuvato dall’inglese Robert Logan, si dipana tra stasi sci-fi e reprise al limite dell’IDM in midtempo accelerando sino al confine con la dance più colta e clubber. Di nuovo assieme dopo l’esperienza, per altro ben riuscita ma era immaginabile vista l’eclettica mente di entrambi Second Nature, in Biosonic il combo si lancia nel Cosmo del suono soundscape/landscape con la consueta mente ‘open’ in grado di garantire ottime linee e synth mai stanchi.
Un nuovo lavoro di Steve Roach d’altronde non richiede nessuna garanzia di critica se non il nome ben impresso sulla cover del disco stesso… Nove tracce di cui solamente “Amniotic Universe” pretende il blasone di suite lunga (una ventina di minuti corroboranti): l’energia armonica del duo si fonde, s’intrinseca, si rilassa per poi agitarsi tra le stasi volute e le accelerazioni tipiche di un’ambient spuria in questo caso, liquida in molti frangenti, scorrevole con una quantità di note in successione capaci di garantire fascino e brio.
Artwork curato dalla fotografa Kati Astraeir (già assieme ai musicisti in passato come al fianco di altri menti illustri della ‘nomenclatura’ ambient scura e non tra cui Raison D’Etre), grafica invece voluta ancora una volta dal patron di casa Projekt Sam Rosenthal, in Biosonic nulla prevale se non l’armonia di una sequenza di tracce mai distaccata.
La solubilità, la fluidità e il potere energetico della musica non declina mai nei paraggi della noia, quindi la vivacità di “Atrium”, seppur contenuta rispetto ad altri momenti del disco, ben s’amalgama con le stasi più meditative di altre tracce, piccole cime tra le pianure del suono artificiale dei synth, piccole lande tra le valli fluorescenti di un gioco tra le luci accecanti e le ombre allungate del vespro. -Nicola Tenani
Reviews Editor –
Biosonic est le résultat de quatre ans d’échanges de fichiers sonores, d’entretiens par téléphone ou par courriel entre Logan et Roach ! Les deux hommes décrivent ainsi l’album : « Biosonic exprime une énergie cinétique qui actionne l’imagination canalisée grâce aux outils de la création hypersonique. » Comprenne qui pourra… Ce duo est efficace, il parvient à transcrire intelligemment ses idées futuristes. Dans l’ensemble l’opus est honnête, néanmoins il est un peu trop disparate. Les élans space ambient sont judicieux et permettent de se rasséréner, mais ils sont trop discrets. De plus, le mélange avec le tribalisme cher à Steve Roach n’est pas des plus heureux. On comprend bien l’idée d’associer l’organique au céleste, mais parfois un choix plus net entre les deux aurait été préférable. Les moments les plus réussis du disque se trouvent au début et à la fin.
« Desires : Birth » démarre pourtant de façon agitée, puis des nappes et un rythme tranquille arrivent. L’ambiance est détendue, chaleureuse, presque orientale, les musiciens lorgnent du côté du chill-out. Le titre s’achève par un schéma atmosphérique soyeux. « Amniotic Universe » est très long (vingt minutes) et ne varie presque pas. L’aspect spatial de la musique des musiciens est ici pleinement développé, mais il est perturbé par un motif ethnique répétitif. Finalement, les nappes dominent, concluant ainsi l’opus de manière sereine. « OmniGen » est raté : peu de variation, trop de pulsations, l’écoute est tendue. « Ecdysis Activation » est mystérieux, à la fois éthéré, subtil et évanescent, il propage une douce tiédeur. « Primal Confluence » est gorgé d’éclats synthétiques, Roach et Logan nous immergent dans un univers angoissant. Entre emphase ambient et trance contenue, on éprouve une sorte de malaise. « Erososphere » est sombre, brumeux et légèrement saturé. Sur « Atrium », la vigueur tribale revient, l’ambient est absente. Beaucoup de bruits divers sur « The Biomechanoid Lifecycle Revealed », qui se veut dark et presque expérimental. Enfin, « BioSense » est étrange, menaçant et acide, voire violent, une pièce plutôt moyenne. Du talent certes, mais au final ce disque manque un peu d’harmonie.
Reviews Editor –
From The Answer is in the Beat
Steve Roach’s all-modular Skeleton Keys album from last year won me over in a big way, and he’s never far from releasing a new album, so I’m excited to hear what’s coming next. He just simultaneously released two with younger UK musician Robert Logan. Biosonic is a blend of many different styles and approaches, with catalog’s worth of digital and analog synthesizers, sequencers, drum machines, you name it. It has its tribal trancey moments, some harder industrial ones, lots of glitching and intricate rhythmic patterns, lots of spacey drifting over everything. It’s really dense, really involved, and absolutely incredible. It feels like being in a giant warehouse full of machines, and every one of them is doing something different, and it’s easy to get lost trying to follow everything and figure out what they’re all doing. “Biosense” in particular is really rapid and complex, if I heard this blindly I would assume it was something on a post-Schematic netlabel. Pretty bonkers, and not the Steve Roach you might be expecting. The final track, “Amniotic Universe”, is 20 minutes long and gets pretty deep and droney after a while.
This is the space inhabited by Second Nature, a more “traditional” Roach ambient album. Four tracks, one of which is a half hour long. Slo-mo pianos, silvery shafts of light, a bit of darkness, but it’s all the name of reflection and solitude. Definitely not the ecstatic thrill ride that Biosonic is, but it’s certainly haunting and gorgeous, and worth sleeping to.
Reviews Editor –
An interesting backstory accompanies these latest additions to Steve Roach’s ever-swelling discography. When he was thirteen years old, the now twenty-eight-year-old Robert Logan was introduced to electronic music by his English father. A subsequent investigation brought the teenager to Roach’s The Magnificent Void, a discovery that turned out to be life-changing. Logan’s teacher father played a further role in this scenario when he sent drawings his students had made while listening to Roach’s music to the composer and included in the package a CD of his son’s ambient work. Impressed by what he heard, Roach—older by more than thirty years—contacted the young composer and subsequently engaged in an across-the-ocean correspondence that would grow into Biosonic, the first of two electronic music collaborations between them.
Four years trading sound files eventually led to a late-2015 visit by Logan to Roach’s fabled Timehouse studio in Arizona to add finishing touches to the album, during which time something unexpected happened: the creation of an entire other album, Second Nature, one markedly different in spirit from the first. To say that his collaborative involvement with Logan had an invigorating effect on Roach might be inaccurate—as his recent solo releases show, he hardly needs outside stimulation to be productive—though one could say the partnership helped bring about a particularly energized collection. Certainly the seventy-minute Biosonic is infused with a kinetic drive conspicuously greater than the Roach norm, and that the recording stands apart from others in his catalogue is intimated by the H.R. Giger-esque imagery on its covers (the album’s Cyborgian theme also is consistent with the kind of vision we associate with the Swiss artist/conceptualist).
In fact, it would be more correct to file Biosonic under electronica than ambient. In this wide-ranging, nine-track travelogue, pieces are powered by an aggressive mix of beats and melodies, and the album material often operates at an hyperactive, even frenetic level of electrically charged dynamism—not exactly the kind of thing we expect from Roach. The muscular rhythmic attack roaring through “Atrium” and “Biosense,” to cite two examples, might come as a surprise to listeners accustomed to his long-form ambient productions. That being said, certain earmarks of his style are evident, among them undercurrents of primal-futurism and a strong focus on textural richness, but there’s no denying the presence of less characteristic traits such as ecstatic intensity and Dionysian wildness. It would appear that Logan has been instrumental in bringing such qualities to the fore. As far as gear is concerned, synthesizers (analog and digital), drum machines, sequencers, outboard processing, and field recordings were all deployed in the album’s production, and in true Roach spirit the recording ends with a twenty-minute setting, “Amniotic Universe,” that’s characteristically immersive and emblematic of the deep ambient style associated with the composer.
That closing Biosonic piece acts as a natural bridge to Second Nature, even if the second set’s pitched at a quieter level than “Amniotic Universe.” Four settings are featured in this case, two relatively short and two long, the title track a thirty-two-minute epic. The production period for this companion release was short, three days to be precise, and the material veritably flowed from the duo as if by instinct. With Logan manning an electric grand piano and Roach on synthesizers, sequencers, live looping, and processing, the recording calls to mind the collaborative work done by Harold Budd and Eno decades ago. For slightly more than seventy minutes, warm, muted hues of piano blend with gauzy synthesizer textures in minimal tone paintings of peaceful, soul-cleansing character. The music shimmers incandescently in place for minutes on end, Logan ruminating unhurriedly and Roach tinting his partner’s piano with synthetic colourations. It’s all as subdued as one might imagine, with the closing “Mystic Drift” the one that most suggests a slow-motion swim in unconscious waters. For those with an appetite for time suspension in a musical form, Second Nature should prove a satisfying meal indeed; it’s certainly a dramatically contrasting companion to its high-energy sibling.
Reviews Editor –
From Prog Archives
Progressive-electronic/ambient innovator Steve Roach begins 2016 in fascinating forth, releasing two very different collaboration works with up-and-coming England-based electronic artist Robert Logan, the first of which is Biosonic. Nearly thirty years in age separates the two musicians, but a mutual appreciation of each other’s work resulted in the pair trading samples of sound-files over a four year period and eventually meeting in person to complete the music offered on these two discs (the other being Second Nature). Biosonic presents these two distinct electronic voices not only truly complimenting each other, but perfectly working in unison to deliver an ever-evolving sound-work that takes their music in exciting new directions.
Despite being indexed into nine tracks, Biosonic is really one single seventy-minute constantly morphing aural collage, where fluid, ethereal synth washes rise, fall and twist around an ever-changing pattern of programmed beats and electronic loops. It’s energetic and lively, constantly moving, even playful in a few spots, pulsing with subtle grooves and floating on mysterious moods. Surprising moments of dub, drum n’ bass and even darkly futuristic psy-trance elements intermingle with the stillness and freeform drift of pure ambient atmospheres, and where what might have once been earthy tribal elements in the past take on an alien monolithic hardness instead.
The surprises start right from the opening passage `Desires: Birth’, an up-tempo dash of liquid shimmerings and twitching electronic glitches with joyful upfront synth soloing rolling in and out, giving way to `OmniGen’s skittering beats and intimidating industrial-like heaviness. A calming respite arrives with the soothing caresses of `Ecdysis Actrivation’ with faraway approaching beats bubbling under, churning slabs permeate barren aural expanses throughout `Primal Confluence’, equally pretty and drowsy drones are laced with fleeting harsher split-second slivers in `Erosophere’, and `Atrium’ is an addictive disorientating darkly grooving meltdown.
The ten-minute segment `The Biomechanoid Lifecycle Revealed’ is one of the true highlights, effortlessly cool and darkly slinking chilled grooves murmuring seductively behind hallucinogenic rising synths veils, even flirting with moments of dub. The up-tempo attacking `Biosense’ is maddening and suffocating machine violence that perfectly soundtracks the faintly H.R.Giger-esque album cover art that suggests a fusion of mechanical, alien and organic. The album is stripped back to pure celestial ambience for the final twenty-plus minute passage `Amniotic Universe’, where cinematic elegance merges with the dreamiest of deep-drifting glacial environments.
Initially a little overwhelming due to the plentiful variety of sounds and moods, careful close listens in an unhurried environment (preferably with headphones) reveal an addictive work with endless delicate little details and intricate subtleties. While there’s plenty of Roach’s instantly recognisable ambient elements throughout, the constantly contorting, mutating variety of percussive elements weaving in and out of much of the album may by a challenge for those who prefer the more still, carefully-paced nature of much of his modern music, but there is still plenty of that for patient listeners to discover. Steve Roach’s music hardly ever sounds dated (if anything it actually exists completely outside of dating fads or any ideas of musical trends), but collaborating with Robert Logan here has delivered one of his most modern sounding and cutting-edge electronic works for some time, their pairing-up on this dark-tinged futuristic soundworld hinting at a multitude of unfamiliar possibilities waiting to be explored. Rating: 4/5