Steve Roden

Speak No More About The Leaves

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Steve Roden once sang. And in the early 2000s, he occasionally dusted down his voice. It happened for Martin Archer's Angel High Wires project, and it happens again for Roden's own Speak No More About the Leaves. The title is taken from a poem by Stefan George, used as lyrics by Arnold Schoenberg in his "Book of the Hanging Gardens." In the two versions of "Airria (Hanging Garden)," Roden's frail, angelic voice sings in a murmur a string of senseless syllables -- the poem has been cut down to syllables that have been placed in alphabetical order (both forward and backward) to form a palindrome, hence the title "Airria." Roden's voice is accompanied by dark, minimal electronics: a three-note bass motif, soft, high-pitched sine waves, treated clicks, and sonic dribbles of various kinds. All these elements taken together form a dark, disquieting aria that would have Gothic tendencies if it weren't so resolutely atypical. The two-note melody evokes a litany, a prayer. The closest comparison is found in the most ambient pieces by The Remote Viewers -- it has that kind of mood, and an uncanny resemblance to Louise Petts' detached sensuality. The title track, sandwiched between the two versions of "Airria" (the second being darker and more song-like than the first) transmutes the vowels from the text into a pentatonic score for a small chime. The notes, treated, float in mid-air, filling the listening space like fog. In his works, Roden often chisels an awkward kind of beauty. This album makes no exception, and it may very well be easier to approach than his previous, all-electronic efforts. Highly recommended.

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