by David J Opdyke, AmbiEntrance
Those dinosaur movies I loved as a kid should have been so lucky to be immersed in Steve Roach's prehistoric sonic tapestries... these ageless surround-sound environments would have kept them from going extinct, at least aurally. The reality-defying sonics of EARLY MAN rise like a dense swampy haze to engulf modern ears in atmospheres of long ago and far away.
From the resounding vastness of Early Dawn, primordial entities seem to awaken among murky, organic soundspaces, animalistic occurences and airier background drones. Into the humid mists, primitive instrumentation is alluringly blurred, adding even more distance and obscurity. Those vapors seep into the lengthy title track Early Man (25:28), from which insectoid rhythms chitter and wafting guitar strands ripple together in outwardly-flowing loops, accented by animalian chirps and chuckles. At the track's end, dark energies approach like a storm blowing in, but then a calm ensues, after which, the colder, celestial movements of starshine and void are observed when Roach begins looking skyward at less-hospitable-but-still-lovely expanses.
Those starry realms shift back down to earth with the slow, drumbeaten Walking Upright; thunderous rhythms stalk while spacious rays glimmer overhead. Hunting and Gathering evolves into even beatier textures, still subdued, and similarly awash in indefinable dreaminess. Everything blurs together going through several transformations before becoming Flow Stone; defintely more "flow" than "stone" as fluid soundstreams glimmer and pour in slow-motion undulations.
The second CD contains 70.5 minutes of reworkings under the evocative title, Early Man Decomposed. Nine further meanderings travel through the eons in pieces that reflect the prior disc, such as the recognizable jungle drums heard in Walking Upright II; for the most part though, things are just as different-yet-the-same as if you'd wandered down the wrong trail; things seem familiar, but you're not really sure... all you know is you're still engulfed in fantastically timeless environments.
Energetic electronic pulsations emit from elemental to dance over the steady-state thrum of the backdrop. All evaporates into a lush near-silence which is broken by the gentle call-to-life of late dawn; the feeling of a warm, new day beginning in a naturally wild world is undeniable. The excursion ends with the windborne sounds of soft ceramic scrapings and bubbling ooze as Below Always (4:30) quietly expands to fill the universe, an endless vessel of time and space.
These 9.2 ear-treks stir the primate within... Subtle enough and organic enough to seem believable (you'll feel the sweat produced by a beating ancient sun and smell the earthy fumes of a world being born) and musical enough to call to that inner being of human creativity, EARLY MAN marks his place in the evolution of ambient explorations. Sounds like another masterwork from Steve Roach's deep-running wellspring.