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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

STEVE ROACH: Return to The Dreamtime (2018)

Updated: Mar 5, 2021

“Return to The Dreamtime follows the logic and stands out as the perfect sequel, if not the perfect companion, for the 30 years of Dreamtime Return”

CD 1 1 Towards the Dream (2018) 39:57

2 The Continent (2018) 13:18

3 Songline (2018) 5:11

4 The Ancients’ Way 14:31

CD 2

1 Magnificent Gallery (2018) 10:52

2 A Circular Ceremony (2018) 17:31

3 Looking for Safety (2018) 13:57

4 Towards the Continuum 15:05

5 After the Return 14:57

(Ambient Tribal, Pacific School)

Dreamtime Return is undoubtedly Steve Roach's first album that has given him a global visibility. The skilful mix of electronic equipment with tribal vibes of Australia's first peoples has not only added more credibility to his creativity but has also opened doors to what is now called tribal ambient music. For Steve Roach and his artistic entourage, it was out of the question to pass the 30th anniversary of this cult album in silence. The basic idea was to go back into the atmospheres of those years by searching through the archives of this project composed between 1987 and 88. Fortunately, everything was sorted in the impressive archives, both sound and photographic, and sketches from this work of Steve Roach. Archives and sound sources that have survived to many traverses of continents from the American musician. And so, after several months of research, both spiritual and musical, and reflections was born the project RETURN TO THE DREAMTIME and whose outcome was an international broadcast by SomaFM of a concert performed at Galactic Center in Tucson, Arizona, on February 10, 2018. Recorded by sound engineer Rusty Hodge, reworked by Steve Roach and finally remastered by Howard Givens, this double album features a top nickel recording with well-known titles from Dreamtime Return, but performed in a more elaborate vision of Steve, and nearly 45 minutes of new music which fits admirably in the sets of the original work.

And it's with over 33 minutes of extra music that Towards the Dream (2018) explains the new sound realities of RETURN TO THE DREAMTIME. Preceded by songs from the inhabitants of the Australian jungle, the rhythm is much more fluid than in the original version. The movement of the sequences is also more in Berlin School mode with a fast pace which is woven in a series of oscillating loops scrolling at high speed. The organic texture arrives a few seconds later, but with a clear decrease in resonance. Slender and degraded movements show beautiful inclinations in the structure which makes detours, as subtle as musical, in this rhythmic labyrinth which plays constantly within its minimalist pattern. Nearly 40 minutes, is it too much? Not really since Steve Roach constantly plays with the nuances in his rhythmic frame where percussions get also grafted in order to solidify an approach which becomes more trance, as in the original version but with a more contemporary tone. Well adorned with electronic elements which cleverly blend the tones of yesterday and today, the long journey of Towards the Dream (2018) reaches a point of breathlessness around the 21st minute. Thus slower, the movement undulates with light descents and ascent, as in the beautiful analog years, before regaining strength and complete its longest exploration in the atmospheres of its opening. Stretched of nearly ten minutes, The Continent (2018) is closer to the realities of the original title with fascinating percussions whose echoes are crumbled by soft rubber tones which are resounding of enchantment. The synth pads are always very enveloping, and the additional minutes express more the ambiences which have guided the final of the original title. I imagine the difficulties encountered with the rhythm of frenetic tribal dance that we found in the original version of Songline. In an extended version of more than 130 seconds, Songline (2018) is yet rather close with a slightly more aggressive rhythm and these unmissable Didgeridoo textures.

First newness, The Ancients' Way adopts a little bit the essences of Airtribe Meets the Dream Ghost, especially in terms of vibes and scenery. The rhythm is on the other hand more luxuriant in percussions and more constant, in accordance with the first 60 minutes of this anniversary edition. Magnificent Gallery (2018) is essentially based on its origins, even with almost 5 minutes more on the clock. It's a very nice track of meditative moods which continues its path of cavernous textures in the introduction of A Circular Ceremony (2018), a title which used to precede it in the original version of Dreamtime Return. The ambiences and this soft rhythm are at the rendezvous. Since Steve Roach revisits his work, everything seems better balanced here with a clear distinction between synth layers, rain effects and celestial voices. Subsequently, we drift to a new version of Looking for Safety (2018). Amputated of 18 minutes, the structure here is more intense and proposes an evolution towards a softer rhythm. This intense phase, these ambiences and the effects of wild jungle get thrown into the introduction of Towards the Continuum, a second novelty. Under a rich sound fauna, the rhythm deploys an oscillating approach which releases some fragrances of Berlin School, Empetus or just a little livelier than in the last part of Towards the Dream (2018). The synth attacks this structure with sound rays of circular mists which envelop a superb tonal texture in a small treasure of creativity from the sequencer. It's a kind of rebirth of RETURN TO THE DREAMTIME and the concert performance ends in a quieter finale of this title that stretches its ethereal breezes throughout After the Return.

RETURN TO THE DREAMTIME is a solid concert performance of an extraordinary album that which deserves nothing less than this re-editing by Steve Roach. One could not hope so much and yet it's a tour de force that he realizes by bringing a contemporary vision to textures which mingle the two temporal distances without altering of an iota the depths of this timeless work. And in the end, RETURN TO THE DREAMTIME follows the logic and stands out as the perfect sequel, if not the perfect companion, for the 30 years of Dreamtime Return. Well done Steve!

Sylvain Lupari (August 21st, 2018) *****

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