Steve Roach - Skeleton Keys [Projekt - 2015]
For his new album "Skeleton Keys", ambient veteran Steve Roach brings us a richly analog piece of unadulterated synthesizer worship in the tradition of "Life Sequence", "Empetus" and "Proof Positive". As with the 3 albums just listed, a sequenced, grid-locked sound dominates the album, a more stable 4/4 than many of Roach's drifting sound currents, the compositions developing through permutations of spiralling arps. The melodic aspects of the music are more boldly stated than is typical in Roach's often sparse and completely gaseous sound forms.
I've been a die hard fan of Roach's for many years now, having first listened to "Immersion: Three" around when it came out in 2007. "Skeleton Keys" may be my favorite album of them all, or at very least, possessing of the most immediately satisfying physical and emotional effect. It is a dazzling kaleidoscope of subtle color gradations too gentle to ever become fatiguing, too finely detailed to grow overly familiar.
How Roach could have fashioned the subtle melodic complexities of these lovely and mysterious chord progressions is baffling to me. Each smoothly undulating iteration winds gracefully through a series of available pitches in a subtely varied pattern, forming a thread in the overall mandala, an astonishingly massive abstract structure. Droning pitches common to all variations form the eternal 'om' beneath.
The production / sound texture quality on this album is just staggering. The buzzing resonance of the analog synthesizers is a very physical sound, unlike the silent detachment of many modern digital ambient recordings. I can't imagine a more lush, physically pleasurable sound than the music on this album.
As a huge fan of trance music, both in its classic 70's Berlin School definition and the modern dance music form, I find this 4/4 styled version of Steve Roach's music intensely compelling. For those who've been waiting for a more active form of Roach's often very slow musical style, this is it. A supremely wise and talented individual, Steve Roach continues to be an endless source of brain food, balancing energy and philosophical inspiration. In the case of "Skeleton Keys", one doesn't have to look so deep into the music to find the profundity and content.Josh Landry