Halcyon Days


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Halcyon Days


Steve Roachanalog & digital soundworlds, electron groove creations, percussion, ocarinas, didjeridu on Snake Brothers & Riding the Atlas
Stephen Kentdidjeridu, drums, percussion, cello-sintir, ocarinas
Kenneth Newbysuling & treatments, max objects, sampler shapeshifting, percussion, p'iri, bonang

CD, Playing time 63:20 minutes

Track List:

Publisher No.:
(1996) Fathom - 11072-2

While most of us were opening gifts, carving turkey and dozing out by the post holiday fire last Christmas, Steve Roach, Kenneth Newby and Stephen Kent were walking through the desert surrounding Roach's home in Tucson Ariz. After wandering through saguaro forests and petroglyph-covered canyons, they had the inspiration for a piece, "Slow Walk at Stone Wash." It's not a Christmas carol. "We had a pagan Christmas," laughs Roach. Roach's idea of a pagan celebration was to sit in a room filled with didgeridoos, clay pots and Indonesian sulings and wire them all into synthesizers and sound processors to create the techno-tribal world of the trio's forthcoming album, Halcyon Days (Fathom/Hearts of Space). For Roach it continues the global-trance explorations he began on his 1988 album Dream time Return (Fortuna), while Kent and Newby were reformulating the rave-trance sound of their main group, Trance Mission. Given that both Kent and Roach play didgeridoo, the Australian Aboriginal trumpet, it's a dominant sound on the album. "His way of playing tends more towards an animalistic style and mine is more detailed," observes Kent. "I tended to hold down rhythmical areas in the sound and leave some of the more earthy input to Steve to do." On Halcyon Days, instruments are mixed, matched and mutated. "There'd be points where Kenneth and I were gene-splicing our sounds," says Roach. Newby would play a solo on the Indonesian suling flute or create a percussion sound and then find it reappearing transformed as part of Roach's sound library. "Steve would take snippets of things I'd play and grab them with his digital gear and transform it into a Roach gesture," laughs Newby, "but with my sound."
Reviewer: John Deliberto

Halcyon Days is a collaboration between Stephen Kent, Steve Roach and Kenneth Newby and was recorded in Steve Roach's Timeroom studio in Tucson in December, 1995 and released in 1996. The collaboration brings three musicians with distinct styles together - in the case of Steve and Stephen, for the first time. Kenneth Newby is a veteran of several recordings with Stephen Kent, notably those of Lights in a Fat City and Trance Mission. Kenneth's piri and suling playing is evident on the title track as a eastern wailing and on First Day as a slow melody contrasting with Kent's didjeridu, as well as several other tracks. Stephen Kent's growling didjeridu rhythms accented with barks and yells are not especially new, as good as they are. What stands out here is the dynamic tension he creates with Steve Roach's floating, atmospheric synthesizer samples. This is evident on the title track. On First Day, Kent and Newby play together in style familiar from Trance Mission and Roach touches down briefly with some synthesizer. On Snake Brothers, Steve and Stephen slowly play together on matched didjeridu until Stephen leads a rhythm which Steve follows. A synthesizer sample washes into the background. After the Slow (indeed) Walk at Stone Wash, Riding the Atlas is a more typical Kent-style piece except that there are two didjeridu players with heavy vocalization. Steve Roach is known for having produced extremely un-structured compositions, lacking melody and rhythm, substituting deftly introduced synthesized continuums of sound. He manipulates the sound textures over minute long notes and overlays one sound on top of another. A didjeridu player himself, he has recorded and produced David Hudson's last three albums, starting with Woolunda, and includes didjeridu playing into some of his pieces. On Halcyon Days, Steve plays didjeridu on Snake Brothers and Riding the Atlas. I think his influence on the album (aside from his playing) can be seen on Slow Walk at Stone Wash, where the didjeridu playing becomes a series long slow notes fading in and out of the mix, or on Calyx Revelation, where the didjeridu seems to be short samples that are pitch-shifted much lower. Halcyon Days is a meeting of the slow ambience of Steve Roach and the faster rhythmic playing of Stephen Kent. Some of compositions are closer to Roach's Origins recording (1993) on which he plays didjeridu extensively and which is less ambient and more earthy. Kenneth Newby's contribution is less obvious except when he plays reeds or winds which alternate between accent and melody. On several tracks a clay drum is played which creates a lovely, pungent sound that the didjeridu and the airy suling contrast with. All three musicians are listed as having played "percussion", so I can't attribute the playing, but the addition is quite nice. If you need the frenetic pace and pop-rock hooks of Dr. Didj, then this will not satisfy. It is a good ambient-genre didjeridu recording that has diversity and is interesting throughout. When you focus on the music, it has depth and is interesting. When you don't focus on it, it carries you along.
Reviewer: John Morfit

Copyright 1997 by John Morfit - All Rights Reserved