Recording information: The Timehouse, Baja, AZ.
Photographer: Adam Fleishman.
Ambient/new age pioneer Steve Roach began constructing a large-form analog modular synthesizer/sequencer setup in early 2014, revisiting the technology that was used to create the electronic music that inspired him back in the '70s. His 2015 album Skeleton Keys was created entirely using this system, and it's an immensely enjoyable work that nods to the past while still creating something fresh and futuristic. The album is aptly titled, as the compositions all have minimal yet complex melodic patterns interlocking to create a strong, sturdy body of sound. The percolating arpeggios bring to mind the expected Berlin-school luminaries, but the clicking beats on several of the selections bring the album a bit closer to early-'90s ambient techno releases on labels like Instinct. Skeleton Keys is a far cry from Roach's tribal and ethnic fusion releases, as well as his ultra-minimalist dark ambient and drone albums. It's energetic, bristling, and alive, and it's one of many highlights in his long, illustrious career. ~ Paul Simpson
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