Steve Roberts, recording as Amongst Myselves, practices the art of recycling in his latest release, Fragments, and the outcome is definitely reusable. The concept is interesting: Roberts has been recording under a variety of guises for several years. For this CD he culled some old pieces and repurposed them–remixed, rethought, reworked, added field recordings–and created pieces that are new but with a ring of the old. (Roberts notes that much of the old work is “unrecognizable.”) Given the mix of source material, Fragments moves through a variety of identities, more often than not in mid-stream. The first two pieces, “Smell of the Sun” and “She Who Loves Silence,” are built around drone tones and atmospheric elements. (I quite like the hollow windchime sounds in the latter.) The shift comes in the last minutes of “She Who…” as Roberts brings in ringing guitar chords that vie with bassy notes for dominance. Much of Fragments is characterized by these types of turns in tone. “Field of Broken Mirrors” may surprise you as it goes from dark, droney wash to melodic guitar piece before Roberts twists it into something slightly experimental…with a modicum of success. “Clouds of Unknowing” turns more successfully a couple minutes in as pads give way to wobbly sequencer rhythms, both perched on top of a nice field recording of (I believe) the ocean.
Speaking of which, the field recordings on Fragments serve two purposes. First, obviously, they add depth and atmosphere to Roberts’ music–perhaps at their best in the crickets-and-thunder opening to “Town on the Hill.” More elegantly, however, he uses them as a bridge between pieces to create a continuous wholeness out of these fragments. The transitions are utterly smooth; your mind notices no discernible break as the sound and feeling of the track you’ve just heard fades slowly away and the new track begins to present itself. Overall, Fragments is consistently interesting, even if the shifts in tone don’t always entirely work as smoothly as one might like. In bringing his past forward to meet his present, Amongst Myselves has given himself a new direction he should definitely continue to follow into the future.
Available at Amongst Myselves’ web site.