by Kevin Filan, StarVox
June 1, 2002
In a typical CD review, the critic judges the competence, commercial viability and artistic adventurousness of the music. He suggests areas for improvement, or keys for interpretation. It's a highly cerebral, left-brained approach. And it's damned near useless when you're dealing with New Age music.
INNERZONE, the latest collaboration between composer, producer, synthesist and multi–instrumentalist Steve Roach and Belgian ambient musician vidnaObmana, is music for contemplation, not music that you contemplate. At first listen songs like "At the Edge of Everything" and "Cloud Space" are dreamy, airy, pleasant and forgettable. "They don't really go anywhere" the critic complains.
And then the Zen master smiles and asks "Where do you think they should go?"
In most musical genres, the fourth wall is a given. The listener hears the performance; he is not part of it. INNERZONE is a participatory experience. Much as jazz uses standard melodies as a framework for improvisation and flights of fantasy, INNERZONE is a framework for meditation and hypnogogic states.
From that viewpoint, INNERZONE succeeds admirably. The droning of Obmana's Fujara (a Hungarian flute which produces overtones reminiscent of Tibetan throat-singing) at various times evokes cicadas, oceans and barren desert landscapes. Roach's electronic improvisations provide grounding in "Encounter Passage" and eerie staccato emphasis on "Isolation." There are many interesting time signatures and exotic drumbeats (particularly on "Strands" and "Isolation"), and enough dissonance to keep things from sliding into the dreaded "Yanni With Eyeliner" category. The music is unobtrusive; it is never unsubstantial.
Most of the bands on Projekt's roster have an immediately identifiable sound: tuneful, smooth, commercially friendly and intelligent if not groundbreaking. Roach's ambient/New Age stylings fit well within this niche, while at the same time expanding its borders. There's a fine line between developing a distinctive sound and becoming a cliché. (Imagine a couple of guys with acoustic guitars singing badly about Aleister Crowley and the Illuminati. I'll bet you know exactly what label released their latest CD.) Roach's INNERZONE shows that Projekt's management is still on the right side of that line.