Sleeping Dogs Lie 92: Steve Roach, Robert Rich

empetus“Empetus is full blown sequencer-based music illustrating a further evolution in the visceral side of Roach’s music. Nine precise pieces that still sound fresh today. A favorite of sequencer music lovers. Released in 1986, this recording of intricately-woven sequencer lines and buzzing synthesizers established Roach as the American answer to the pioneering European electronic masters of the ’70s (Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream). Alternately thrilling and serene (sometimes within the space of the same track), EMPETUS’ waves of energy rest upon labyrinthine patterns of interlocking notes and wildly cascading tonal clusters. Roach varies the moods from piece to piece as well: the bright, piercing electronics of ”Seeking” contrast vividly with the starker, sweeping veils of sequenced notes and arcing waves of ”Empowerment” or the turbo-charged synths that rev through ”Conquest”. It’s all riveting, exciting stuff, and although Roach largely abandoned the style as he moved forward, EMPETUS remains an important, if largely unsung, statement documenting the course of modern American electronic music.” — Darren Bergstein, Muze

somaLike the wild mushrooms that fungus enthusiast Robert Rich turns into gourmet dishes, the pieces on Soma seem to emanate directly from the ground, without belonging to any species hitherto defined. New Age? Nah. Ambient? Not exactly. Fungoid tribal trance? Maybe. Rich, the drone provocateur who invented the “sleep concert” in the early ’80s, and Roach, proto-ambient pioneer whose Dreamtime Return remains a classic of organic New Age, distill a potent nectar of heartbeat-paced percussion–including rain sticks, clay water pots, kalimbas, and sequenced drums–and reverberant flutes, didgeridoos, and canyon-sized synthesizers. More rhythmically active than either the Roach-Vidna Obmana duet Well of Souls or early Roach electronica like Traveller, Soma–named for the Vedic potion said to deliver the drinker to God–is a Southwest vision quest that suggests Terence McKenna’s psilocybin-mushroom theories: a connection to the very soul of the earth through ethno-botanical ingestion. Bottoms up… –James Rotondi

OriginsLike ancient cave etchings released from the stone they were carved upon, Steve Roach’s evocative music on Origins rattles the subconscious, bringing our most elusive dreams and primeval memories into focus through potent sonic essays. Roach’s twentieth recording documents the latest chapter in his ever expanding style; a highly instinctual vocabulary of futuristic, yet organic electronics combined with forms of expression, as old as man himself. Driven by hybrid percussion, enigmatic synthesized melodies, gravel-voiced chants, and intense cries of yearning, the opening piece Artifacts creates a sonic time warp that propels listeners into a surreal, almost alien, tribal landscape. This leads to some powerful didgeridoo playing on subsequent tracks as Roach deftly illustrates his growing virtuosity on the ancient Aboriginal instruments he learned to play during his extended stays in Australia. Even without electronic accompaniment, the didgeridoo conjures up some powerful imagery on Clay, Wood, Bone, Dirt, a stunning, entirely acoustic duo featuring Roach and Mexican multi-instrumentalist, Jorge Reyes who plays clay water pots on this selection. In The Face in the Fire, sinuous synthesized textures and mammoth drum beats build a rock solid foundation for Roach’s gritty chants in some long forgotten language, while the cryptic cauldron of churning sounds in In the Eyes of the Spirit feature Reyes’ performances on Aztec trumpet and other pre-Columbian instruments. Spanish artist, Suso Saiz provides his own brand of hypnotic guitar textures on several selections as well. Through it all, Steve Roach deftly brings to life a story of ancestors and heroes, medicine men and ceremonies at dusk, as he reminds us that one day we too will be artifacts in the minds of some future civilization.

01 Steve Roach: “The Memory” (05:57) from “Empetus” (1986)
02 Steve Roach & Robert Rich: “Silk Ridge” (06:05) from “Soma” (1992)
03 Steve Roach & Robert Rich: “Soma” (12:07) from “Soma” (1992)
04 Steve Roach & Robert Rich: “Seduction of the Minotaur” (05:21) from “Soma” (1992)
05 Steve Roach & Robert Rich: “Touch” (04:36) from “Soma” (1992)
06 Steve Roach: “In the Eyes of the Spirit” (07:56) from “Origins” (1993)
07 Steve Roach: “Dreaming Now, Then” (18:58) from “Origins” (1993)