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Steve Roach - The Ancestor Circle (with Jorge Reyes) CD (album) cover

THE ANCESTOR CIRCLE (WITH JORGE REYES)

Steve Roach

 

Progressive Electronic

3.91 | 4 ratings

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Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Defining ambient artist Steve Roach has a long history of tribal-infused atmospheric music throughout his thirty-plus year career, and one of his latest releases is another subdued and hypnotic mix of ancient and future sounds weaving together. The basic elements of this work were recorded back in 2000, with Roach unearthing the original tapes again in 2013. `The Ancestor Circle' is another joint effort with fellow ambient artist, the late Jorge Reyes, the pair having collaborated numerous times since the early Nineties right up until his passing in 2009. Tribal elements seamlessly blend with modern electronics here, sounding like a mix of both future and past. Don't expect much in the way of melodies or anything resembling obvious tunes - `The Ancestor Circle' presents a slowly unfolding selection of hypnotic instrumental soundscapes and immersive tribal drones, deeply atmospheric and meditative, with little welcome traces of darkness and edge emerging in a few moments as well.

With a huge inhaling gasp of air, `The Circle Opens' takes in all manner of heady potions and natural hallucinogens, a concoction of mellow synth washes weaving around deep-throated groans. A trickling loop peppers the background, sighing synths float like a gentle stream and spectral voices spiral into infinity. Darker elements try to take control throughout `Espacio Escultorico', a constantly building tribal drum-beat pounding behind quivering wordless vocal cries, abstract sheets of electric guitar feedback and forceful electronic walls of synths trying to consume and dominate. There's a breathless, almost maddening and intimidating quality here, as if you're hearing bad spirits barely being kept at bay by positive forces. Low-key electronics slink alongside reflective flute throughout `Spirit, Stone and Bone', ancient past and promising future collide with subtle hypnotic grooves and gentle psychedelic strangeness on `Procession of Ancestors', and the electronic strums filled with purpose on closer `Temple of Dust' effortlessly turn reassuring and freed, like a lost spirit joyous in finally earning peace.

But it's the ambitious `Memories Unsuspended' that leaves the biggest impression. A twenty-four minute extended composition, it's a hugely confronting and emotionally exhausting mix of unceasing heartbeat-like cold machine robotic loops duelling with fragmented vocal reverberations. It's as if the cold, busy, hedonistic and Godless modern world is trying to dominate and violently attack the spiritual ways of old. Bombarded with temptation and selfishness, those machine hisses move up and down in tempo to raise the pulse, sometimes transforming into slinking grooves around restrained cinematic-like swells and ethereal wisps of guitar strains. It's a haunting, deeply moving piece, and the brief darker strains of the final few minutes remind that those temptations and negative elements are always there, but you have the ability and self-belief to defeat them on every occasion.

Only time will tell if further unfinished or unreleased collaborations between Roach and Reyes will emerge, but if this turns out to be the last of their work together, then the late artist would be very proud of the finished results. There are occasional accusations that some of Roach's albums show repetition or have a similar sound, but it's best to simply approach each individual release and view it on its own merits. Each album released by the artist has its own unique identity, and it's up to fans and listeners to discover which ones mean the most to them. But in this case, `The Ancestor Circle' achieves a frequently perfect unity of tribal elements and subtle electronics, and for his final release of 2014, Mr Roach still maintains his incredible and consistent recent streak of superb ambient releases, so once again just let his music wash over and completely envelop you.

Four stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |

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