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Steve Roach, the brilliantly creative Arizona-based electronic composer, is always ready to try new sounds. In his Dust to Dust (Projekt, 1998), collaborating with Western guitarist and producer Roger King, he re-created the twangy guitar sound of the American West in the characteristic Roach style of vast drifting ambient. Here in Midnight Moon he continues that sound, though without the drama and storytelling of Dust. This is pure ambient, devoid of rhythm, very slow- paced, somnolent and repetitive. Composed mainly with long- period tape loops, there are few changes once a sound-cycle has been established. It is also much softer in volume than most Roach productions.
Midnight Moon uses dissonant harmonies and microtones, though in some sections ("Deadwood," cut 3, "Broken Town" cut 4) there are fragmentary echoes of the blues or country and western. Yet any conventional musical material seems very far away. The guitar is used not as a virtuoso or melodic instrument but purely as a sound-source, and it seems to wail and weep, rather than tell stories. This creates possibly the bleakest mood that Roach has ever evoked on an album. It is interesting that the composer of the ecstatic Light Fantastic could also make something so somber as this album. It shows how versatile Steve Roach can be. Yet I have to admit, as a longtime Roach fan I prefer the expansive, upbeat Roach of Light Fantastic far more than this sometimes dreary vision of the darkness over the Western desert.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.