Steve Roach & Robert Logan - Biosonic [Projekt Records - 2016]Steve Roach's 2nd and latest collaboration with Robert Logan, entitled "Biosonic", is a denser, busier affair than most of Roach's recent albums, a heavily processed and modulated series of pulsing tribal and synthetic rhythms, coming off more like Autechre than Roach at times, with its watery broken beats, enshrouded in forlorn chordal pads.
I've soured a bit on Roach's "Shadow of Time" album since originally hearing it, and liking it. It sounded nearly identical to his sound circa 1983, brought few ideas or timbres, and seemed too uneventful and familiar to attentively listen to, though it's an excellent sleeping aid. Many other recent Roach releases have also been comprised solely of clean, liquid synthesizer.
Most every track here is a vaguely throbbing, distant murmur of a beat, run through the wash many times over, the odd warping of the signal becoming a voice of its own. The ambient use of beats and loops is not unlike Rapoon, the output of the Soleilmoon label, and Roach's own "Fever Dreams" series from the mid 00's, with its barely conscious, entranced tone. Though the energy level is still quite low, this album has a great deal more total sound content than a number of Roach's pure 'drift' albums, and the layering of sounds is much deeper and more complex.
Many of the songs are short by Roach standards, glimpses into moments, often disappearing before they are fully understood, making for a surreal, dreamlike collage. The arrangement feels disconnected, meandering, with a great many crossfades from one space to the next. Roach brings the eerie moonlight shimmer of his darker records, such as "The Magnificent Void", all the more haunting when arranged with this faster paced, fragmented approach.
This is certainly a 'dark' ambient record, devoid of the sense of being surrounded by nature which is usually quite strong in Roach's music, but perhaps more powerful for it, a poignant wordless statement about transhumanism and its consequences. Its scintillating stygian gesturing is comparable to the German group Lightwave in my mind, capturing the inexplicably tainted, half-consciously perceived auras of barely remembered nightmares. Logan's glitched out, IDM derived micro percussion flickers like computer screens into the retinas of so many solitary plugged in denizens.
Robert Logan's influence has clearly resulted in a very fresh feeling Steve Roach record, though it is also more ominous and alien than anything he's released in years. There are worlds to dwell in within this detailed recording.Josh Landry