STEVE ROACH: Tomorrow (2020)
Updated: Mar 5, 2021
“Beware if you intend to listening this blasting sequencing patterns from A to Z, the rythmic whirlwinds might give you some daziness”
1 Tomorrow 20:01
2 Optimal Being 24:16
3 Heartbreath 19:27
4 Spiral of Strength 7:34
5 A Different Today 11:55
(CD/LP/DDL 83:13) (V.F.)
(Driven Sequencer-based Berlin School)
Is Steve Roach this new modern god? The one with whom his music can reach millions of souls through the apostles of digital, be the social networks? Still, our friend Steve knows how to talk to people who consume EM, as meditative or even that dear progressive New Age which annoys (what are the reasons?) the elitist mass. You have to know how to read between the lines and listen to what he has composed for us. After an album of intelligently restful astral piety in A Soul Ascends, Steve visits again the Berlin School style. He does that in the past 3 decades. He goes in to get out with a disconcerting ease and returns again to the style of his first love without losing a note or an inspiration source. We can make the word TOMORROW say many things. It can be as simple as tomorrow is another day! As again, let's be positive because the best is in front of us. Or the day after having had to postpone his concert in New York in last March, because of the confinement where everything has tumbled into the creative mind of the one who gave us the immortal Structures from Silence. And why not an amalgamation of all the possible combinations related to TOMORROW, as Steve does with the great diversity of his sequencer here? Here is another little gem that is added to this list of masterpieces that friend Steve has deposited here and there over the years. But beware, your ears might betray this impression by actively listening to the 4 sides of this double vinyl album. I would recommend one album, or one CD at a time. Regardless, every title here has that little something that stirs our obsession.
It all started with the composition of the title-track which followed this cancellation and which also preceded the composition of an album on the occasion of this frustration emotion, without thinking of the next day. Frustration not being too far from anger, the successive tinkling of astral bells jostle to attach themselves to these morphic layers which dominate Steve Roach's atmospheric spaces. At low volume, our senses appease while at high volume, they get excited. It's Steve Roach magic! Tomorrow is made up of an army of crystalline jumping keys which move on with vivid alternation in successive lines. By rank! Each with its own intonation and rhythmic flow which is more or less similar. It's this space between the rows, invisible to the ear but not at the level of perception, which separates the rhythmic progression with movements in musical canon, making me think of those silent impulses which propelled the sequenced rhythms of Richard Pinhas in his period of Iceland to L'Éthique. And that sets in quite early in Tomorrow when the limpid tinkling of synchronized bells gives way to implosive impulses of a line of bass-sequences which advance with decided steps in the rhythmic chronology of TOMORROW. The rhythm thus programmed evolves between splendid purely ambient phases where the intonations of the mists become orchestrations tied up by an armada of violins which serve as bridges between the vivacity of the impulses of the sequencer whose spaces are now better defined in our ears. Like a great dowser of sounds, Steve inserts his emotions which translate here into bass sequences which accelerate a sustained cadence and take advantage of each micro-opportunity by developing these dapper bells which are grafted in between, where the bass sequences are the reflection of these new implosions. Superbly magnetizing, this 21-minute long track is a tour de force about the minimalist art and this need to survive by magic by playing with proportions and colors. Rightly, Tomorrow did not steal the expression pure masterpiece. Period!
And how to survive a title of this magnitude? Optimal Being can work hard if it wants, except that it's limited to the charm of an all alone hyperactive sequencer, it loses some great assets. But if we like the sequencer, our ears will be enchanted to hear this lively rhythm which is surrounded by attacks of organic elements. A rhythm where its designer juggles with its jumps by releasing jumping keys that bite into indiscipline. The sequencer multiplies the jumps of its keys which borrow different tonal colors on another line of the sequencer rolling like a mad train in the panoramic enchantments of the Arizonian musician. The first few minutes are sterile at the level of surprises. There are no dull implosions, nor those bass-sequences that used to cut out the rhythmic attacks in Tomorrow. Everything revolves around the clarity of the sequences which take different rhythmic avenues while being surrounded by a more acoustic vision, like this long phase where it's left alone in the cradle of a creativity rendered to the most simplistic. It's after this phase that things change. New intonations bring Optimal Being back to life while the bass implosions remain under its mismatched course. In doing so, we have the impression of hearing a Honky-Tonk keyboard performer while slowly, the rhythmic music offers us one of the most beautiful moments of this album. An iconic phase with intense and dramatic surges that are reminiscent of this universe of tortuous rhythms from sequencing patterns as seen by Chris Franke in the time of Tangerine Dream's vintage years. Optimal Being! A title that requires a lot of love and patience in order to discover all these subtleties which will make it one of Steve Roach's good titles for you too. HeartBreath comes to us from the musical ashes of Optimal Being. There is a fight between lines and layers of synth waltzing as best they can in a phase swallowed by rumbling reverberations. The setting takes us back to the early years of the American musician, when he flirted with the specters of the Arizona deserts. This long movement leaves the harshness of the sequencers of the first two titles to explore these ambient rhythms of the period Structures from Silence to Dreamtime Return, without forgetting the paranormal and intrusive textures of Western Spaces and Desert Solitaire. The wooshh flood our senses with slow oscillating movements as subtly HeartBreath brings us back to the sources of the sublime Structures from Silence.
At this point, my legs are sawn off! Designed to fill 4 sides of a vinyl double album, TOMORROW has one last side to show us. Face D! Spiral of Strength uses Hearthbreath's chloroform layers to structure a rhythm arched like multiple rodeos on an asphalt highway heated white by the scorching rays of sunshine from the Death Valley. So, a rebellious rhythm running at full speed in a cyclical dysfunction where the speed of the sequencer and the slowness of the synth pads orchestrate a plague which magnetizes a passive listening for a big 7 minutes without respite. A respite not granted also by the leaping structure of A Different Today. We are in the lair of Empetus with this energetic movement of the sequencer's continual and stormy back and forth and of its robotic axis of harmonic-rhythmic carousel. If it's been 75 minutes that our ears bathe in the rhythmic pot, we may lack breath, as of interest to hear the fine nuances modulate the delicate changes of rhythm which always ends up being trapped in its shackles that only Steve Roach knows how to appease this unexpected invasion of morphic layers that breathe serenity on the apprehensive rhythmic explosion of A Different Today. The next 3 minutes of the title and of TOMORROW belongs to this sweetness reinvented and reincarnated by the know-how and the creativity of a musician who after nearly 40 years of career and more than 170 original albums further still manages to bewitch us and captivate us in his always very relevant musical analyzes.
Sylvain Lupari (November 10th, 2020) *****
Available at Projekt Records