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Steve Roach: Light Fantastic

AAJ Staff By

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The "Magnificent Void" jumps to light-speed with this electrifying new release by Steve Roach. He is using the same resources as his recent Body Electric including the technical and musical expertise of "Vir Unis," but as a solo production, Light Fantastic is quite different from the collaboration of Body Electric. At very first hearing, it is possible to hear the similarities between the two recordings, but very soon it becomes evident that Light Fantastic is not Body Electric II. While Body Electric was bumptious, raucous, and sometimes humorous, Light Fantastic is much more "serious."

Light Fantastic uses the most up-to-date developments in synthesized rhythm. These "fractal" rhythms - based on the same computer-driven mathematics which give us the now-familiar spiraling, branching psychedelic designs, speed by faster than any ordinary human percussionists could play them, and are picked up by our ears almost in a subconscious way.

But the fractal rhythms are only one characteristic of this futuristic album. More than any Roach album since Magnificent Void , Light Fantastic is explicitly "space" music. This is rigorous electronica, calling forth not cacti, sand, and mountains, but the blazing suns and quantum energies of space - as if the "black hole" of the Void had opened out into a "white hole" of streaming rays. It is drivingly fast, filled with headlong movement which propels you along at warp speed, the sonic equivalent of those movie special effects where all the stars converge into a scintillating blast of light.

This Roach album is so consistent with itself that it forms itself into almost a "symphonic" structure, as if it were one piece with six movements, rather than an album with six separate tracks. The dominant harmonies, for the most part, are Roach's highly abstract "tone clusters," laid down in various forms of synthesizer work. The only time where "conventional" harmonies show up are in track 3, "Reflecting Chamber," where Roach uses the Indian stringed instrument, the tamboura (played by Stefin Gordon). The abstract tonality of Light Fantastic (i.e. not much "melodic" material) needs many hearings before its reason and structure can register on a listener's mind. This is not the "rock musician" or the "quiet friend" of some of Roach's other, more accessible albums. This is the "philosophical" Roach who, paradoxically, adds intellectual content to ambient music. As such it is one of Roach's most ambitious and powerful albums to date.


Title: Light Fantastic | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Hearts of Space


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