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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

STEVE ROACH: Live at SoundQuest Fest (2011)

Updated: Mar 5, 2021

In spite of all these years and his impressive collection of albums he produced in the recent years, Steve Roach succeeds to amazed

1 Momentum of Desire 28:36

2Medicine of the Moment 12:06

3 Thunderwalkers 11:13

4 Morphic 5:37

5 Off Planet Passage 16:19

(DDL 73:52) (V.F.)

(Tribal Ambient, Pacific School)

Recorded during the SoundQuest Fest in Tucson, Arizona, LIVE AT SOUNDQUEST FEST is the second album in concert realized by Steve Roach in these last 2 years. After the very quiet and serene Live at Grace Cathedral, this one shakes a bit the apple tree of sequencer and of trance rhythms that Roach touched in Destination Beyond and investigated deeper with Byron Metcalf and Dashmesh Khalsa on Dream Tracker. We add the meditative boiling elements of Immersion 5 and we get a delicious cocktail where trances and tribal rhythms of Roach marinade marvellously with his synth surges and shaman prayers of Dashmesh Khalsa and Brian Parnham.

Singings of locusts and swaying synth waves, with a fine metallic textures, open Momentum of Desire. Oblong synth layers are entwining and floating in a slow maelstrom where more piercing layers scratch the halcyon structures of its soft and warm intro. This juxtaposition of synth stratums shapes an ambiance at once celestial and dramatic with its tender impulses which end into divine embraces. Quietly, rhythm takes life beneath this sky to a thousand enchanting layers of a hybrid synth. Percussions and pulsations fragments can be heard in distance. They break through this dense synthesized opaqueness and pulse with more vigour, bringing to this intro a pleasant tribal savour. A savour that will accompany us throughout these20 minutes because the rhythm is drawing and becomes more precise with heavier pulsations and cymbals which roll like rattler's tails. Heavy, the tempo continues its expansion with the addition of diverse percussions and pulsations that shape a more accentuated flow which enrich a musical direction where the multiplicity of synth layers amaze and captivate. Towards the 12:30 point, the rhythm modifies subtly its axis. It becomes more fluid and flows on percussions and pulsations with nervous jolts and a sequencer line with keys skipping nervously in a percussion fauna unique to Roach tribal fantasies. This sequence is delicious and frees keys shaped in a structure of bass with glaucous hiccups which pound under a sky always multicoloured by the varied breezes of synth layers. We can even hear some roaring. Like we can also hear astral choruses criss-crossing the valley of rhythms abstruse by an intense synthesized opaqueness which floats on more and more shady sequences and percussions/pulsations as heavy as resonant. The synth/keyboard drops chords and nervous riffs which quaver in an immense flora of percussions, pulsations and bass sequences. That is so much that our ears have difficulties to catch all those vibrations and pulsations which shape an upside down rhythmic covered by weak breaths of apocalyptic mermaids. Simply superb, Momentum of Desire continues its rhythmic migration and can’t dye away underneath the weight of angelic voices which finally oppress the ardour of this superb movement which still haunts our ears during the transition of the desert plains tribal singings which is Medicine of the Moment. Synth layers undulate and float in a sombre ambiance where synth implosions flow in oblivion. Tribal percussions roll like balls of branches in desert, introducing Didgeridoo enchanting breaths. Medicine of the Moment is a strange phonic dialogue between Didgeridoo and sound elements such as whistles, Indian cymbals and other heterogeneous tones of an unknown tribal world which drive us towards the mostly dynamic Thunderwalkers and its tom-toms of a lost world (or a Jurassic one) which resound among Didgeridoos’ hoarse breezes.

If the introductory rhythm is slow and mesmerizing with the hypnotic beatings of its tribal drums it gains in intensity with its strikes that are closer in a whimsical jungle filled by thousand of heterogeneous tones. Thunderwalkers becomes a superb shaman dance with choirs in trances which chant abruptly among a thunder coming from the clan's gods. Heady and hypnotic, Thunderwalkers is a powerful track as much by its rhythm that grows subtly than its tom-toms which are sticking to the beatings of a madden heart and feeding an unrelenting cadence, confronting Didgeridoo's lugubrious breezes in a strange phonic ambiance. Morphic is an odd result coming from an exchange of Didgeridoos’ breathes between Dashmesh Khalsa and Brian Parnham in an ambience without rhythms but livened up by a cloistered life. And two didge players like those two, it creates a whole texture of primitive atmospheres. Dialogues deflect quietly and fill Off Planet Passage's intro of these strange guttural dialects that are sticking to a more serene environment, but always so nuanced and ambiguous, where delicate layers of a solitary synth glance through a sound fauna always so eclectic and mysterious. And it’s in a musical landscape to multiple heterogeneous variances that unfolds Off Planet Passage where isolated flutes meet serpentines' steps with movements crushed by bells and percussions which growl with the subtlety of metal sheets underneath slow synth oscillations. It’s a tribal and heterogeneous world unique to Steve Roach that we taste ears wide open and senses in alert.

Presented in a superb digipak with nice pictures, Steve Roach's LIVE AT SOUNDQUEST FEST is another pleasant surprise coming from the American synthesist. I know that he produces albums in industrial quantity and that each of them can’t be splendid, brilliant or better than its precedent. But in spite of all these years and his impressive collection of albums, Steve Roach succeeds to amazed and produced albums of impact that mark down in his gargantuan discography. LIVE AT SOUNDQUEST FEST is one of those!

Sylvain Lupari (June 21st, 2011) *****

Available at Steve Roach Bandcamp

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