Streams & Currents
by Michael Otley, StarVox
My first experience with Steve Roach was from the FROM ACROSS THIS GRAY LAND NO. 3 (1993) compilation with his piece "Three Reptiles Wait at the Opening to the Underworld". I hadn't really heard much music with this approach before, and it quite intrigued me. I loved the feeling it gave me, and the visuals as well. That piece is so tangible, and it really opened up Steve Roach's world for me.
My experiences with the music of Steve Roach since have varied a great deal. In 1996 I saw him open for the Projekt Fest (both nights); I was amazed at the depth and overwhelming presence of his music there. And to have it come alive in front of me, even improvised, wow. And as for his recordings, I've fallen in love with many of his releases, from his most eventful works like KIVA (his collaboration with Michael Stearns and Ron Sunsinger) to his darkest and deepest like WELL OF SOULS (his first collaboration with Vidna Obmana). And there's a plethora of solo works as well, though I tend to favor the collaborations. One of the things I like best about STREAMS & CURRENTS is that it's not a repeat of one of the numerous recordings from Steve Roach, but a new approach to his own style.
STREAMS & CURRENTS is probably the lightest Steve Roach recording I've ever heard. That's not to say it doesn't have depth, because it does; Steve Roach reaches further and further. But it's not such a heavy depth here. Something about this release reminds me of the DREAMTIME RETURN release, but STREAMS & CURRENTS is even more open and spacious. Curiously other than a mantra beat on the second track, the album is entirely created on guitars, improvised and looped live. Steve Roach mentions developing the intuitive performance, and that helps keep it very fresh.
While the recordings were created with guitars, you wouldn't know it by listening. These could be bits of his stretched and manipulated synths he's worked with so long. The knowledge that these are guitar creations makes it a bit more interesting, and the psychology of the creation that much more enjoyable. While it's often not important to understand the process undertaken by a band or musician, it's very interesting to reflect on Steve Roach's process for these recordings. It's almost therapeutic to envision him in a room with two guitars and the lights of his processing equipment going at it with ebow in hand.
And as for the music itself. It moves very slowly, very sweeping, very open. The album lets you move and breathe, and it lets you sleep if you need. While it's not particularly eventful, it doesn't fall in the boring category at all. I also wouldn't call it particularly depressive, happy, or even necessarily introspective. I think this is music for the body, the way you might either relax or swim in a pool or river and they're very effective for either activity. STREAMS & CURRENTS is not necessarily the best place to start if you've never heard Steve Roach, but if you know Steve Roach's work, I think this is a very interesting release.