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Steve Roach and "Vir Unis": Body Electric

AAJ Staff By

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Roach fans, this is your wake-up call! After the calm ambient depths of SLOW HEAT and the Western driftwood of DUST TO DUST , BODY ELECTRIC bursts into the soundscape with a driving exultant rush. Not since 1997's ON THIS PLANET has Roach, along with his excellent collaborator "Vir Unis" and other fine sidemen, produced such compelling, percussion-driven work. This one's got it all: electronic growls, clangs, drums and rattles, industrial noise, mystical hoots, Robert Rich-like "glurp," sounding stones and grinding rocks. And all of it makes me want to get up out of my computer chair and free-dance to the rhythm.

The mix of different sounds - and different players - is better than ever here. Roach and "Vir Unis" work perfectly together. For instance, in track 3, "Mind Link," the familiar cool contemplative Roach chords are layered under an explosive, steam-puffing mix of electronic rhythms, rattles, and grinding- stone zings. And in the middle of this noisy train ride, you hear the night-song of the little tree frog and the crickets from SLOW HEAT !

There is a continuity from one track to the next, so that a listener can hear the rhythm metamorphose as the album goes on. While there is always something new coming down the sound- road, there is a progression from the high energy of the earlier tracks to a slower, heavier pace in the later pieces. Because of this attention to pacing, BODY ELECTRIC feels like one large continuum, rather than a collection of separate musical pieces.

Among these slower (but still percussion-driven) pieces in the middle of the album there is the weirdly humorous track 6, "Homunculus Within," which features transformed, sighing or yelping human voices, like the sounds of lovers in the Underworld, along with tropical bird calls. This moves into industrial clanking that sounds like a construction site in the jungle. As the album moves on, it flows into more ambient spaces, such as track 8, "Solar Tribe," where the percussion is muted against nocturnal drones and Roach's own eerie vocal soundings.

The pace picks up again for one more power ride, in track 9, "The New Dream." This almost-"techno" construction carries the listener along on a steely rail of sound, until it melts into the last piece, no. 10, "Cave of the Heart." Here, BODY ELECTRIC finally winds down, in a slow, dragging rhythm that has an almost physical effect, fading into smooth ambient soundwashes, like the "cool-down" after a workout. Indeed, after listening to BODY ELECTRIC , you will want to catch your breath! This is powerful work from one professional in his prime and another on his way there.

| Record Label: Projekt | Style: Ambient


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