Byron Metcalf, Steve Roach & Rob Thomas, Monuments of Ecstasy

metcalf_monumentThis, it seems, is a very good time to be a fan of tribal ambient. Over in the southwest corner of the US, electro-shamanic pulses are flowing like rivers ready to ferry us straight off to the lower worlds. I will not question whatever planetary alignment has effected this; I am quite content to immerse myself in it. First it was Byron Metcalf and Mark Seelig’s superb Intention, then it was Steve Roach unearthing some lost goodness on The Ancestor Circle, and now—is it unbecoming of me as a reviewer if I just say “Wow” here? Because now we have Monuments of Ecstasy, which takes the already well-established and incredibly potent chemistry between Roach and Metcalf and throws in didgeridoo master Rob Thomas (Inlakesh) to serve up future-tribe grooves at their best. With Thomas and drummer Metcalf firmly rooted in the organic truths of breath and hands, Roach gets behind the controls to bend circuitry into deep prayers. The balance is gorgeous, equal doses of smoky, humid atmospheres and vibrant, tech-driven energy. And the sliders keep moving between the two; each of the six tracks finds it way through these stages, and each hits its absolute stride when all of it is in full effect. “Monuments of Trance” is a fine example, opening on long curls from Thomas’ didg, underlaid with faster pulses and traditional yelps and snarls. Metcalf’s drums rise into the mix, ramping up the intensity while Roach folds in electronic washes and everything melts down into a quite effective sonic tranquilizer. And when the pieces throttles back to a long, rolling wave-form and the ridge, you know you’re just waiting for the engines to fire up again–and they do, on a signature Roach sequenced-percussion groove. “Primal Analog” jumps out the quiet ending of “…Trance” on another cool sequencer pulse, giving the modern side of things the forefront for a while. Now, I realize that Roach did not break out his favorite bass guitar to lay down a righteously funk-worthy slap line to start “Molecules of Momentum,” but the feel is certainly there. This is Monuments of Ecstasy at maximum velocity. Thomas’ fast-breath work here is so very good, sharp rasps punching through the flow. And this track is seriously deep, built on so many layers of small sounds that completely fill your head. The title track comes up out of a Thomas’ menagerie of animal sounds and guttural snarls to unfold into something reminiscent of Roach’s outings with Erik Wøllo. A soft, repeating keyboard riff sings over the wash. Nice melodic touch to offset what’s been, up until here, more of a surge-and-flow situation. After all, they do have let you catch your breath eventually, right? My only less-than-drooling-over-this comment about Monuments of Ecstasy is that the final track, “This Place On Earth,” feels like it’s just allowed to sort of limp out. Not that I expected some sort of big, crescendo-filled denouement, but it almost leaves the thing feeling unfinished. Honestly, I checked the track listing on the CD cover to make sure I hadn’t completely burned the disc into my player. This, however, is an extremely minor quibble when held up against to the bulk of this release, which has quickly and firmly slotted itself into my top tribal releases of all time. I love this album. I play it loud. I lose myself in it, over and over. It strikes every primal nerve in my body, and it sets me journeying. This is serious medicine, and you need to take it, too.

Available from Projekt and the Steve Roach web site.

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