What happens when a decades-long master of ambient synths bases an album around guitar for the first time? Something more than a sketchbook but less than a masterpiece, invaluable to Steve Roach fans for the light it sheds on his compositional process with a new instrument, but probably not the best place to start for those not already familiar with his work.
Psychologically, Midnight Moon reminds me of Roach’s excellent 1995 two-disc collaboration with Vidna Obmana, Well Of Souls. Both albums have the same feeling of descending deep into the subconscious, a restful yet also unsettling journey into vast, warm caves and inky, uncharted waters; a dream hovering on the edge of nightmare. The 21-minute-plus “Midnight Loom” is a good example of this. A single note is struck loud on the guitar and echoes into the distance, then a string of notes trickles downward, echoing again as other plucked notes resound around them. The result is a slightly neurotic and completely enveloping atmosphere, a sense of things moving unseen on all sides, threads of past and future crossing and recrossing, intertwining in the present center where you sit, watching a dream landscape of ever-changing clouds pile up, thin out, and drift away as you ride a restless sea with waves swelling beneath you, then rolling on toward a distant, unseen shore.
All that is great; the problem is that by the seven-minute mark, you’ve experienced all those visions, only to be forced to run through them over and over as the track loops back on itself, then back again, in a way that tips the hypnotic/repetitive balance a bit too far toward boring. The same looped/repetitive problem surfaces in “Broken Town,” then again in “Later Phase.” Lots of good ideas here, in other words, but overall the album feels a bit unfinished.
Projekt/Darkwave, P.O. Box 166155, Chicago, IL 60616; http://www.projekt.com