STEVE ROACH: As It Is (2021)
“As it is is the mirror of A Soul Ascends, with a nice touch of ambient tribal”
1 What Falls Away 11:16
2 Threshold Meditation 13:07
3 Unreachable 17:24
4 Equanimity 11:56
5 Tears for Time 14:11
6 Emerging 13:25
(CD/DDL 81:21) (V.F.)
Steve Roach has just got back from his SoundQuest Fest 2021 that he drops in my mailbox a brand-new album that takes a big leap in time, backwards. AS IT IS breathes the scented ambiences of light tribal rhythms of the years when he was nomadic in Australia like in the American deserts. Very beautiful albums came out of this period. Although almost 40 years separate these eras, music still lives as a tonal flower in these territories. These are the flowers that Steve has chosen as a potion for music that has frozen in time. Borrowing spells heard in A Soul Ascends, AS IT IS is neither more nor less a reflection of us discovering the new musical lands of Steve Roach around 88 and 89 ...
An oblong line of reverberations meander elements as much celestial as cosmic and even oceanographic in the intriguing opening of What Falls Away. Sweeping an arid land with these reverberations from which wind waves have escaped, this introduction to this new Steve Roach album resembles of his travels in Australia or his deep connections with the land of his ancestors in the Dreamtime Return to Desert Solitaire period. The winds range from singing to resonant with organic breezes, much like the last breaths trapped in a didgeridoo. It's calm and still mysterious. Like the introduction of Threshold Meditation and its mixture of winds, breaths imprisoned here in abandoned vuvuzelas, astral waves and synth lines with prismatic scents. A nice texture of organic ambiences with percussions drummed slowly, so as to graft poetry in a title where surrealist external elements, like those breaths of a boat a time ago on the Mississippi blew, share its slow passage whose percussions flow would suit to a collective spiritual trance. The form is blurred with a spectral vision which withers at the same time as the rhythm. We stay in the realm of pensive, floating shadows with Unreachable. The synth pads soaring like an eagle without body or legs drift in an ocher-colored night. Pensive piano notes drained of melodies, as well as other undefined chords, are scattered in a zone of ambiences without vitality. Synth lines move like long sleepy snakes that pound themselves on them or curl up in a cave where the rays come from the echoes of ringing lost in an unapproachable area of Unreachable.
Even in a deep lethargic state, the first 4 minutes of Equanimity hides beautiful synth lines filled with an emotion felt on edge. The title then reaches a phase of soft ambient rhythm provided with good drummed tribal percussions; a bit like in What Falls Away. The synth and the shadow of its waves are like these wings describing large arabesques with touching points of emotionality which have turned the hairs of my shivers upside down. We can see the roots of them now. What a sublime title where there is no lost second! Tears for Time is designed around synth layers accumulating excess numbers in order to weave an opaque ambient texture which gives the impression of constantly drifting. Between these layers hide threads which stand out with a more accentuated moaning hue. But that's about all. It's a long, sleepy track. With Equanimity, Emerging form the pair of musical pearls in AS IT IS. Its movement is blown from below to create a perfect papal ambience in a cathedral illuminated by the thousand fires of angels who have become stars. The ears, like my listening room, invaded by these masses which merge, creating eddies from which emerge string instrument notes, to recreate themselves from a simple derivation. Piano or harp, these sometimes faded and sometimes radiant notes dance through the dunes of fog which form balls of dreams only waiting for my closed eyes to inject themselves into them. But there are more intense moments that bring me back to musical memories of other nights when my eyes refused to sleep. These moments which left with a final all of breezes hanging in the void lead me to this eternal reflection; how many lives does Steve Roach have?
After a great year in 2020 and the frenzy surrounding his virtual shows, my friend Steve is embracing 2021 with as much creativity as he did last year. AS IT IS is the mirror of A Soul Ascends, with a nice touch of ambient tribal, which is little exploited among the 81 minutes of AS IT IS. In fact, the album is more focused on his divinatory style in order to fix our soul in the realm of our emotions through his. It's beautiful meditative music, as Steve has accustomed us so well over the ages. But really, how much life does he have?
Sylvain Lupari (April 5th, 2021) *****
Available at Projekt Bandcamp