lundi 14 juillet 2014

STEVE ROACH: Empetus (1986/2008)

“Totally blasting, even with some nice melodic pattern, Empetus is a true lesson about the art of sequencing and of building infernal rhythms”
CD1 44:51
1 Arrival 4:20
2 Seeking 5:34
3 Conquest 6:07
4 Empowerment 3:52
5 Twilight Heat 3:15
6 Merge 6:23
7 Urge 6:23
8 Distance Is Near 2:40
9 The Memory 5:51
CD2 "The Early Years" 69:00
10 Harmonia Mundi 45:00
11 Release 24:00

Projekt 218 (2 CD 113:51) ***** (Base sequenced EM)
Here is an album among the most powerful and the most hard-hitting that I heard in the spheres of EM. At that time, it was one of the most powerful. If not the most! “Empetus” is a true masterpiece in the world of sequences and sequenced rhythms. It's full of hard rhythms at full sight and ears, set apart for the very quiet "The Memory", where we can feel the basis of a certain album called Structures from Silence, with a massive use of frenzied sequenced rhythms. Spirited rhythms and sometimes very harmonious ones, caressed and charmed by synth pads often very ethereal. Roughly, it's a journey in the core of the analog beast where Steve Roach spent hours, if not days, to work movements of sequences and rhythms which transcend the universes quite Teutonic of the German movement. Each track proposes its unique rhythmic envelope, to some variances near, where are camping some beautiful electronic ballads tied up to soft harmonious nuances which are linked in rhythmic patterns finely interconnected. Such is only way of describing this jewel of contemporary EM where the analogue is a prince and the sequencers are kings. Steve Roach got back the rights on this work more than 20 years later and thus proposes us, by the help of Projekt Records, a 2 CD package, nicely done, with two long hyper syncopated tracks which shows in which point Steve Roach can easily be compare with the monarchs of modern EM.
After a short ambiospherical moment, "Arrival" spreads its string of sequences of which the doubles get follow one after another into a fast pace shape. From the outset, Roach establishes a category of rhythm rarely equalled with furious ions which pound like the heart of a sprinter on electronics steroids and out of breath with a rhythmic charge caressed by synth pads filled by a subtle scent of ethereal metal. It's a whirlwind of sequences with these famous pas-de-deux which roll and stumble like on 
Poland from Tangerine Dream. Except that here the pace is livelier and the sequences run to lose breath. If the tempo is minimalism, the synth layers which criss-cross over it weave a floating mosaic that percussions annoy with guttural bangings and plunge "Arrival" into a rhythmic tornado where every striking multiplies its echo by 2 and where the last one resounds until its morphic finale. Only the intros and finales feed of ambiences. Steve Roach had to wake up his fans after the so wonderful and so peaceful Structures from Silence. Produced by Michael Stearns, “Empetus” is a wild album where the sequences can bite as they can swirl like in "Seeking" and its lighter rhythm built on soft butterflies which flutter over an arid plain. "Conquest" is wild with a hard sequencer and solid percussions which beat with strength. The synth is merging ambiences and harmonies to this sequenced ferocity with beautiful floating pads which are full of ethereal voices. A thick cloud of choirs floating over a frivolous and nervous keys open "Empowerment". The beat is static with sequences which liven up frenetically among floating synth pads. This movement exploits both antipodes of EM, I hear Jean Michel Jarre here, and that annoys the ears so much we are on the waiting for frenzied explosions. But this kind of unfinished rhythmic intercourse possesses its unmistakable charms. "Twilight Heat" distinguishes itself by its delicate and morphic melodious approach. The movement of sequences shakes a line which goes and comes and turns into circle in the caresses of a synth always so near of Steve Roach's ambient territories. This is a very melodious piece of music which would have find its place on Now & Traveller, quite as "Merge" and its shimmering movement of keys which dance and dance and where the same striking of key finds its echoes in a long minimalist serpentine interrupted by whistles and choirs which seem in lack of oxygen. The sound is really vintage but that remains still very good. We are in a phase where the sequences are dressing of airs as angelic as harmonious. "Urge" brings a sequencing pattern a la "Merge" in a kind of upward rhythm which climbs and climbs with a very good play of percussions which amaze, as much for the effect as for the idea, and of which the strikings resound like weighty footsteps. Short but devastating, the sequencing of "Distance is Near" gathers all that drags (percussions, carillons, strata and choirs) to offer a whirlwind of a violence that Roach has not yet reached on “Empetus”. This is a totally insane track. "The Memory" leads us softly somewhere else. It's an ambient piece of music which floats of its nice ethereal layers and subtle floating modulations. A prelude to Quiet Music, published some months later.
This new edition from of the label Projekt comes with a second CD which contains two very long tracks of which the furious and very hypnotic "Harmonia Mundi" where we would swear that our mind follows the circles of an immense kaleidoscope and its traces of fire. The rhythm, if we can say so, remains static and linear throughout its 45 minutes. It's like a big snake running after a prey in steep mountains with fine modulations in its oscillations and where some delicate synth layers refuse any harmonious approaches even if sometimes they weave tribal rustles or breathless fluty breezes. The sequence keys jump with violence, sometimes pulling their shadows in a static tumult which is by moments whipped by well scattered knocks of percussions. These 45 minutes of a syncopated rhythm pass rather fast (yes yes), because if
Roach has the gift to measure well its subtle modulations  he also has this unique way of throwing here and there strange sonic allegories which soften the hard parts of this rhythmic ferocity. To date, I have never heard an electronic rhythm as violent as that of "Harmonia Mundi". After this violent storm of jumping ions, "Release" calms down a little the moods with a delicate rhythm which jolts harmoniously in a structure as harmonic as rhythmic. A line of bass sequences pulses laconically while that another makes flicker its timid ions and that another one makes wander its ions which burst of their twinkling harmonies in the winds of delicious synth solos. We are in territories of Berlin School while that quite slowly "Release" adopts the insane curves of the indomitable sequenced rhythms of “Empetus”. I hear Klaus Schulze in his Totem era.
Empetus” is a true lesson about the art of sequencing and of building infernal rhythms.
Steve Roach multiplies the proof by 10 that EM is not only a story of ambient music or floating rhythms. Set apart some quiet, necessary passages I imagine to give a little moment of respite to our ears and to those of our neighbors, “Empetus” peels the art of sequenced movements in its most inmost shape. The sequences dance, rather fiercely by places, in solitary as in crowds, furious of being so numerous. From where the rhythmic thunderstorms which dominate some so superb melodies unique to Steve Roach's universe. Remarkable, recommendable and necessary!
Sylvain Lupari (July 13th, 2014) &

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