Steve Roach synthesizes familiar sonic territories and fresh approaches on his latest episode in the Immersion series, Immersion 5: Circadian Rhythms. If you’ve been following with the Immersion discs, as well as with Roach’s overall sound-story, the elements at play in this two-disc offering will come as a known quantity. The first track, “Phase 1,” opens with the intricate, insectile skitterings that first populated Roach’s Possible Planet, racing back and forth to track out cryptic symbols in your head. From out of the shifting clicks and warbles a misty wash arises that carries the listener easily into “Phase 2.” On this leg of the journey, familiarity comes from the shimmering cry of processed guitar. The rhythms ramp up in energy, urged forward by the sort of analog electro-pulse that’s powered parts of Landmass, Destination Beyond, and The Desert Inbetween. Personally, I really like this aspect of Roach’s work lately. It’s an understated drive that carves out a low-key but distinctly effective sense of shamanic percussion via electric channels. Against those slow-motion guitar chords it feels even more intense. Underscoring it all is a hushed bass line of Fever Dreams ancestry, peering out of the flow. And then Steve Roach manages to surprise me. The crux of “Phase 3,” for most of its half-hour-plus flow, is a repeating melody/motif that–dare I say it?–is kind of bouncy when you get right down to it. It’s light, bolstered at the edges with a sort of metallic, percolating percussive element, and it just lopes its way through swells of synth pads, loaded with tiny sound elements and just enjoying itself as it moves along. It’s a happy sort of sound, and it particularly works because the background sounds retain that minor-chord, deep-exhalation sense. The result is a very yin-yan feeling, active versus drifting, up versus down, energy versus calm. In the end, Roach melts away the rhythm and lets the drift take over with hints of that analog skitter roiling below the surface. And so the circle comes around and begins again for perfect looping–something I’ve been doing a lot of with this.
Or you could segue right into the second disc, the long-form track, “Shroud of Night.” Again, the sounds come like memories from the depths of the Roach library, a constantly moving weave of shimmer and shadow coursing through an endless night. The beatless flow makes a nice counter to its companion disc. Taken on its own, it carries the feel of watching clouds moving across the moon, the mood always on the edge of darkness but retaining a subtle coronal glow. Roach’s guitar textures melt into his pads in a smooth partnership of sound that takes the listener in and down for the duration. Roach notes on his site that this disc was played on infinite loop for a year as he refined it; while I don’t suggest you dedicate that much time to it all at once, I have definitely enjoyed sleeping with this disc playing just at the slightest level of hearing and letting it work its way into my subconscious. Deep but soft, “Shroud of Night” is a classic Roach drift–and Immersion 5: Circadian Rhythms is another superb entry both the series and to the overall Roach canon.
Available at Steve Roach’s web site.