Last fall Steve Roach released the first edition of Early Man
as a collectors' item, a single CD encased in two slabs of slate rock. There were only 1000 copies made of this, and since there was demand for a more accessible format for this music, Roach arranged to re-release the album in a conventional CD case from the Projekt label. Not only has he done this, he has added another CD, called Early Man, Decomposed
in which he takes the first album and re-works it into another set of ambient pieces. (My review of Early Man
part one, is available on this site.)
You can definitely hear echoes of the original album on Decomposed , but Roach has scrambled the sounds, changing the sequence in which they appear, the sound-mix that modifies them, and even their pitch and rhythm, all this through the wonders of digital sound-manipulation. Although Decomposed is presented as a list of tracks, it really forms one complete entity, rather like Roach's long "pure" ambient albums such as Slow Heat (1998) or Atmospheric Conditions (1999). Like these previous pieces, Decomposed is more a "sound environment" than a piece of conventional structured music. It is a classic example of the "abstract" Roach, featuring, as I have described in earlier reviews, long, often quiet passages of atonal noises and tones, wrapped in cavernous reverberation. Synthesizer notes, percussion, "found sounds" and singing stones, industrial clanks, soft rhythms, whispers, loops and echoes, all blend together into a rather chilly, drifting atmosphere, more reminiscent (as in Atmospheric Conditions ) of a cave or a mine than of the sun-baked desert of Roach's usual landscape.
Decomposed is not easy listening. It has a different mood from its more accessible, even bouncy predecessor on the first disc of the album. This second disc is ambient made out of ambient, at a double distance from the predictable soundworld of electronic music. As a result, Decomposed will probably attract fewer listeners than its companion disc. Those who do listen will hear a dark, mysterious soundscape that seems to emanate from the remote depths of the earth.