Steve Roach & Byron Metcalf: Tales From the Ultra Tribe

Longtime collaborators Steve Roach and Byron Metcalf first pooled their respective talents in 2000 for The Serpent's Lair and have continued to do so repeatedly in the years since, with the recorded output sometimes featuring a third member such as Mark Seelig or Dashmesh Khalsa. Tales From the Ultra Tribe could, however, be seen as the long-gestating follow-up to The Serpent's Lair, given that Roach and Metcalf share equal billing and are the musicians solely responsible for the seventy-four-minute journey. The accompanying press info characterizes the album's sound as “shamanic-electronic tribalism,” and that's probably as good a descriptor as could be provided for the material's trance-inducing, electroacoustic sound. Armed with all manner of percussive gear (frame drums, rattles, shakers, clay pots, etc.), Metcalf takes care of the rhythmic side, while Roach deploys an array of synthesizers, drum machines, electronics, and other sounds to generate the dense, synthetic-atmospheric dimension.

That Tales From the Ultra Tribe is intended to be experienced as a journey is indicated by track titles such as “Setting Forth” and “Road From Here” and by the tracks' uninterrupted flow. Despite the fact that shifts in tone and atmosphere do arise (compare the hyperactive urgency of “Road From Here” to the languid humidity of “Fire Sky Portal” as one example), a fluid pulse is present as an undercurrent tying the eight tracks together. That Roach and Metcalf are long-time collaborators is borne out by the recording as it seamlessly blends their contributions and does so with a well-measured degree of balance: Metcalf's primal rhythms are omnipresent but neither dominant nor submissive; Roach's synthetic patterns and atmospheres are likewise prominent yet not so much so that they overwhelm the percussive sounds. Interestingly, the deep plunge into future-primitivism taken by the duo (especially on a representative track such as “The Magma Clan”) isn't that far removed from the work Paul Schütze released during the mid-‘90s as part of Virgin's Ambient series (1995's Apart and 1996's Abysmal Evenings) so listeners fond of that particular ambient-tribal style should find Tales From the Ultra Tribe to their liking, too.

February 2013