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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

STEVE ROACH: Dreamtime Return (1988-2005)

Updated: Mar 5, 2021

“Dreamtime Return is a splendid tapestry of soundscapes of an Australian world that Steve Roach puts in music so that our eyes see what our ears hear”

CD 1 1 Towards the Dream 7:09 2 The Continent 4:47 3 Songline 3:01 4 Airtribe meets the Dream Ghost 7:07 5 A Circular Ceremony 11:18 6 The Other Side 13:11 7 Magnificent Gallery 6:02 8 Truth in Passing 8:49 9 Australian Dawn-The Quiet Earth Cries Inside 6:17 CD 2

1 Looking for Safety 31:17 2 Through a Strong Eye 6:50

3 The Ancient Day 6:07 4 Red Twilight with the Old Ones 9:50 Fortuna Records 18055-2 (1988)

(CD/DDL 130:23) (V.F.) (Tribal ambient music)

Then at the top of list of the emergent artists who fed musical landscapes with an infinite precision, Steve Roach delivered in DREAMTIME RETURN the album which was going to define the borders of the ambient tribal EM. Conceived in 1988, either just after the musical journey in the American West which resulted in Western Spaces, this Steve Roach's double album is always considered as being his ultimate work. As being this passage of EM towards the universe of tribal ambient rhythms. It's on the heels of Western Spaces, fragrances can be heard on track 2, that this surprising album, which figures on the prestigious list of 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die, was going to shake the columns of the so said ambient music with some fascinating aboriginal rhythms and chants. As well as a fascinating fusion between instruments, I think among others of Didgeridoo, of the first peoples of Australia. To be very close to this music, which asks all the same for a good open-minded, Steve Roach moved his things into the North of Australia together with the photographer David Stahl who was initiated this project. Him who was completely enchanted by the music of Structures from Silence while he passed by the American desert to go to Mexico.

Towards the Dream begins DREAMTIME RETURN with a movement of percussions magnificently drawn by Taos drums and electronic percussions. An organic matter infiltrates this movement of spiritual trance of which the accentuated pace rolls in loops while being shaken by some rollings of percussions a little more intense. This superb pattern of percussions stays under the influence of wide synth layers which spread orchestral and spectral harmonies. This canon start appears among the best introductions of Steve Roach's albums. The Continent, which seems to be a lost title from the sessions of Western Spaces, follows with a softer rhythm which is sculpted by more hypnotic and hefty percussions. The American synthesist spreads luxurious synth layers of which the harmonious approach remains as much seducing as its anesthetic effect, especially when the orchestral side gets melt to layers perfumed of discreet elfin voices. First title to be modelled on the Australian tribal approach, Songline is a hymn of aboriginal dance, which reminds me the universe of Vangelis in La Fête Sauvage, with effects and Didge on a furious structure which gets blurred with the arrival of Airtribe meets the Dream Ghost and of its tribal ambient rhythm. The percussions are scattered in an approach of hypnosis while the rattlers of a wizard sing in an ambience of a hostile desert which is slowly wrapped by the coldness of the night. These last two titles are composed in collabrations with Robert Rich who also plays gourd drums. As the titles parade on CD 1, we feel that the rhythms become under the influence of the Australian heathen divinities. So, A Circular Ceremony presents a soft rhythm with tired percussions which just have just enough strength to crumble a little more some authoritarian strikes under the aegis of other synth layers which harmonizes its anesthetic influence with very beautiful effects of voices. We dive literally in ambient mode with the stunning The Other Side, a title recorded live with Kevin Braheny who also plays this surprising instrument, Steiner EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument). He forges effects of a weeping violin which spreads a concerto for tortured souls. Flavors of the East are dragging in the big winged and soporous movements of a synth which surprises the ear with rivulets of arpeggios which glitter in suspension. Magnificent Gallery brings us back to the mysteries of the Australian grottos with another movement ambient structured by these sleepy wings of the synth. Truth in Passing is another small jewel of meditation which is harmonized on the notes of a very melancholic piano. That's have to be first time that I hear some piano in the music of Steve Roach. Australian Dawn-The Quiet Earth Cries Inside ends this CD 1 with an approach as dark as that of Magnificent Gallery.

Looking for Safety is considered by several connoisseurs as one of the most beautiful titles of meditative music from Steve Roach. Its slender and weighty synth layers unfold a wonderful anesthetic decoration where the melodic approach always remains very present. It's like to watch a heap of clouds taking its forms and getting loose from each other with the grace of an aerial waltz which swirls in very, very slow motion. Splendid and very close to the magnificence of Structures from Silence, the music melts behind our eyes with this tasty taste to stay stick to it. And these drums, which beat a measure as sedative as the morphic chants of the synths, add an even more charming dimension to Looking for Safety. An enchantment for the emotions all over its 31 minutes! Through a Strong Eye undertakes the slow awakening of DREAMTIME RETURN with a thick cloud of woosh and of ambiosonic jingles which resound in order to emerge from the Australian caves. Still here, the electronic, orchestral and spectral fusion of the synth layers is as much rich as very penetrating and floats like an intrusive shadow. Effects, synth shrill tears and felted explosions awaken the atmospheres, but not as much as the percussions which liven up The Ancient Day. It's here that DREAMTIME RETURN regains control of its structures of tribal rhythms which drum under the huge floating shadows of the synth wings. In fact, the name of DREAMTIME RETURN takes all its sense here while the rhythms and the aboriginal ambiences of Red Twilight with the Old Ones are reborn from the ambiospherical ashes which have entailed this double album towards the deep of our subconscious. A short comeback to a rhythmic life that The Return pulls towards these superb meditative moods which border the fascinating Australian universe that Steve Roach puts in music so that our eyes see what our ears hear. A monument!

Sylvain Lupari (August 19th, 2010) *****

Available at Projekt RecordsBandcamp

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