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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

STEVE ROACH: Journey of One (2011)

Updated: Mar 5, 2021

Journey of One is intense, boiling and mesmerizing

1 Journey of One (Part One) 47:32

2 Journey of One (Part Two) 50:59

(2CD/DDL 98:31) (V.F.


(Tribal Ambient)

Let's face it, Steve Roach is as important a character as Klaus Schulze and Edgar Froese in the universe of ambient and progressive EM. Over the years, the Californian synthesist has put on real little masterpieces of ambient, tribal and sequenced music. JOURNEY OF ONE traces these genres a little during a performance given in Sacramento on November 8, 1996. So, at the top of his inquisition in the strange tribal-ambient musical universe he presented alone on stage an astonishing concert where the man-orchestra of meditative and tribal EM jumps from one instrument to another, offering a performance as hallucinating as spellbinding.

An Aeolian turbulence sends dark winds that swirl at the opening of JOURNEY OF ONE. Streaks of a ghostly synth envelop this noise of Aeolus, pushing distant murmurs to whisper on the edge of tribal tam-tams. Steve Roach weaves his rhythmic canvas with powerful ethnic percussions which sound an alert under a sky blackened with ululating streaks and aboriginal spectral lamentations. This spasmodic movement which initiates the intro of Journey of One (Part One) gets more sensual and more bewitching with slower percussions which drum lazily, initiating the raucous breaths of the Didgeridoo. We are around the 7 minutes and already we are floating in these tribal and paranormal universes. The rhythm goes from lascivious to nervous, but still sits on these superb tribal percussions. If the first 14 minutes offer a sustained rhythm, the title embraces a strange atmospheric phase. The Californian synthesist weaves there a creepy and frightening universe with paranormal whispers which circulate in air corridors nourished by dark layers of a morphic synth. We're in segment 4 of Journey of One (Part One) and the beat has gone missing. There is a supernatural ambience with winds and Ocarina breaths that float above the bells and the chimes from speed pot shakers. We are in the heart of the desolation lands where only the dead whisper to the night as the winds return their incantations. The tom-toms wake up and thunder a little after the 6th segment, awakening this desert land for a good 5 minutes before the rhythm disappears in the winds, stirring here and there a few ashes as the iridescent specters and voices from beyond ululate and rage in a point of no return.

Journey of One (Part Two) is embroidered in the same musical canvas as Journey of One (Part One). The intro offers a short, more playful rhythmic introduction with keyboard riffs that turn in loops under lively ethnic percussions. This rhythm fades a little after the 3rd minute, giving way to the spellbinding incantations of the Didgeridoo. And the tribal and desert universe of Steve Roach is emerging. The 3rd segment brings us into a dark and bewitching ambience with lascivious tom-toms that support shamanic incantations. These dark and mysterious prayers are cradled by layers of morphic synth, delicious wizarding rattles and the cocoons of ringing butterflies. Segment 4 offers a spiritual trance rhythmic approach. The rhythm is curt and nervous. Steve Roach drums a heavy rhythm which shakes under precious layers of a synth stuffed with warm winds. Winds which carry the sounds of the chimes towards a more meditative part with murky pulsations which beat heavily, recalling the ambient universe of Suspended Memories. The 7th part of Journey of One (Part Two) is the pivotal piece of JOURNEY OF ONE. It's a long segment of more than 15 minutes where the percussions trace a heavy and dense rhythm. A hypnotic rhythm that multi layered synth lines envelop in a delicious magical aura. This frenzied rhythm gradually diminishes, leading us to a more ghostly passage where desert spirits howl with the synth winds, awakening the raucous breaths of the Didgeridoo. The percussions are superb and the ambience is amazing. If you are lucky, you should listen at high volumes or with headphones. Great! The last part is more ethereal and also more musical. It's a beautiful ambient passage. A bit like the calm after the storm, we let ourselves be lulled by the soft floating rays of the synths which will inevitably bring us to the lair of the Californian synthesist.

It's obvious that Steve Roach produces CDs by the ton. The man is prolific and his works multiply. Except that he has the talent and the emotions of his ideologies, thus giving to his works a bewitching depth that few synthesists, or musicians or composers, are able to bring to our ears. And JOURNEY OF ONE is no different. It's intense, warmth and captivating. It enters our ears to disappear into our memories with a twinge in the back of our eardrums. It's a superb meditative album which amazes in each of its furrows, just like all the works of the Lord of the Aboriginal Lands.

Sylvain Lupari (December 16th, 2011) *****

Available at Projekt Records Bandcamp

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