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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Steve Roach/Brian Parnham - The Desert Inbetween [Projeckt - 2011]

Let’s be honest here folks many of our favorite artists do have an ongoing sound or ’style’, which they often run right into the ground for fun and profit. Why do we as listeners tolerate such shenanigans (i.e., endless remixes/reissues)? Is it we or the artists who are just too bored or jaded to care? Sorry to say, but some of our heroes just run out of ideas. And we really do not need to mention names, do we?

Yet, in some cases this is not even really a bad thing, depending upon how much we as listeners truly enjoy said ‘style’ or sound. There are artists and listeners who actually do enjoy exploring a narrower range, focusing on those details and micro-moments which change with each release. A process of distillation and refinement in search of musical essence(s) is a commendable pursuit; at rare times resulting in musical nectar. In genres such as dub or electronica it is those small, startling changes in sound or technique that make whole oeuvres both compelling and entertaining. Or, make even a single musical piece so lovely or wonderful that it is never put aside. This certainly applies to the brooding, magical landscapes created by Steve Roach (and collaborators) over the years.

In all honesty I have never met anyone who owns every release by Mr. Roach and his collaborators/friends. Neither have I ever met anyone who owns every release by Current 93 or Brian Eno, although there are surely a few out there. Roach, like Eno and Tibet, have such an agglomeration of releases that most listeners just do not have the stamina or wherewithal to accommodate their musical fertility. So, most of us check in with such artists from time to time, seeing what they are up to and try to decide which release(s) are worth our cash. Desert Inbetween by Steve Roach and Brian Parnham is certainly a release worthy of consideration when it comes to both allocating attention and funds.

On The Desert Inbetween Steve Roach collaborates with Brian Parnham, whom he has worked on two previous occasions, if memory serves. Roach supplies, besides synths and percussion, some atmospheric electric guitar sounds while Parnham contributes with didgeridoo, percussion and synths. Overall, the album very much has that Steve Roach ‘sound’, so I assume his was the overriding aesthetic vision for the album. 

As for my favorite tracks, the initial offering called “Opening Sky” is very nice with some well-blended guitar sounds that remind me of the more ambient moments of a David Torn or Steve Tibbetts. “Serpent Gulch” is mysterious, with effective percussion reminiscent of prime Jon Hassell. “Somewhere Between” drones moodily until subtle percussives begin resonating; a sound-painting of an alien twilight descending. Roiling synths and didgeridoo create a captivating sense of the enigmatic on “Return to the Underground”. The album as a whole is quite compelling in its ambience and would go well with a similarly moody reading material (say Charles DeLint or Thomas Ligotti?). It must be admitted that Steve Roach is probably more absorbing on headphones than when played over speakers…..unless one has no neighbors or at least very patient ones who enjoy ambience at volume. It is only on headphones that all the subtleties with which Parnham and Roach have infused The Desert Inbetween can be truly appreciated. Although the album is ‘ambient’, it compels you to listen actively. And such active listening rewards the listener with audio worlds both rich and stimulating.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Bill Too
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