Steve Roach & Jorge Reyes: The Ancestor Circle
Every new Steve Roach recording shares, it seems, certain properties with the voluminous number preceding it: though indexing suggests the presence of individual tracks, the material on a typical Roach release unfolds without pause for somewhere in the vicinity of seventy minutes. The music is permeated by a strong sense of meditative drift, and exotic aromas of the type associated with World Music emanate from the music's pores. Also characterizing Roach's tribal-ambient-electronic fusion is an out-of-time quality, the feeling that the shaman's ritualistic music could just as legitimately be deemed primitive as well as contemporary or even futuristic.
All of which is a roundabout way of saying that The Ancestor Circle amounts to a seamless addition to Roach's ever-expanding discography. It is special in one distinct way, however: while it's the first collaboration from Roach and Jorge Reyes since Vine ~ Bark & Spore appeared in 2000, more importantly The Ancestor Circle is their final joint studio project given that Reyes passed away on February 7, 2009.
In terms of production background, Roach discovered in 2013 a set of tapes recorded in May 2000 that he subsequently used as a foundation for the new release. In his own words, “As I completed this music now, adding new elements and evolving the arrangement, I could feel Jorge's spirit listening and interacting with me in the studio, offering feedback or sometimes making his guttural sounds of agreement ... Just as in previous magical studio and stage experiences, we are in the circle once again.”
It's easy to see why Roach and Reyes make such a natural pair: like Roach, Reyes invested his music with an ethno-musicological sensibility, and the twenty solo albums he issued during the ‘80s, ‘90s, and ‘00s drew heavily on the indigenous traditions of his native Mexico. On this seventy-four-minute collection of new “medicine music,” Roach is credited with synths (analog and digital), ocarinas, percussion, guitar, trance grooves, and “spirit air”; among the sounds Reyes contributes to the recording are pre-Hispanic flutes and ocarinas, vocals, tarahumara drum, percussion, and guitar. That list alone suggests much about the sonic character of a primal-futurism project that thematically symbolizes “a ceremonial offering to the forgotten gods.” Throughout the trip, Reyes' wordless vocalizing rises from the music's mutating surfaces like the plaintive chanting of a tribal elder, while flutes warble amidst heat-scorched landscapes liberally strewn with percussive accents and myriad electronic flourishes. The various instrument sounds, while emerging within the mix as distinct elements, operate as strands within a dense, shape-shifting whole that organically evolves at a well-calibrated pace—neither too slow nor too fast.