Steve Roach

Trance Spirits

  • AllMusic Rating
    9
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

To say that Steve Roach is prolific is both understatement and to miss the point. Roach makes a ton of records because he can: He has the means and the talent to record cheaply and quickly. The other half is his talent and his ability to "say" something new each time out. For this listener, the answer is an unqualified "yes." Roach is one of the last big theme composers: He finds an area, subject matter, psychological or emotional state reflected in both the inner and outer worlds and goes for an obsessively impressionistic investigation of it, both solo and in collaboration. He does so far more successfully than most, and he seldom, if ever, fails. This setting, with percussionist Jeffrey Fayman and guests Momodou Kah, a master percussionist, and the guitarist Robert Fripp, digs deeply into the percussive landscape of shamanic ritual, memory, and journeying. Unlike his other recordings, with the exception of the artwork, there are no notes about the process or intent of the recording; it is simply for the listener to encounter. The set opens with "Taking Flight," a wild, heavily percussive groove that feels tribal, ecstatic, and full of a determined purpose. This is high ritual music: It is loud, insistent, full of repetitive rhythms and themes, and its articulation of the human body and its participation in the music-making process -- you cannot help but feel this track inside you -- is singular. Fripp's contribution is not extroverted: His is everywhere, but as part of the mix, his guitar comes out of hiding as itself once in a while, but for the most part, is another layer of sonic exhortation to go further. The title track begins with a much more slowly developing series of rhythms and atmospheres. Articulation is placed on texture and chromatic shade as opposed to dynamic. Over nearly 17 minutes, its circular and hypnotic pathways envelope the listener in a cocoon of shimmering heat, shadows, and glanced-at emotions. "Year of the Horse" is a shock at first because its rhythms feel so synthetic and electro. If one didn't hear Roach's cosmic weave in the background that becomes the foreground about halfway through the track's 13-and-a-half minutes, one would swear it was Banco De Gaia. A gorgeous ethereal drone commences the album's final track, "In the Same Deep Water," before the deep shamanic drumming of Fayman and Momodou Kah re-enter the picture with Fripp floating above the entire proceeding and Roach managing the middle world and the body of the piece. There are pure ambient soundscapes in the middle of the album, too, that do not detract, but link the percussive edges of the mix; the sum total is a different direction for Roach and an deep and even transformational listening journey for anyone who takes the chance.

blue highlight denotes track pick