Recording information: 08/08/2011-02/01/2012.
Steve Moore, half of Pittsburgh electronic/prog rock duo Zombi, draws inspiration from classic '70s-era German electronic music on his October 2012 Cuneiform label debut, Light Echoes. This is not unfamiliar territory for Moore; the influence of Tangerine Dream can be heard in his previous solo work and on Zombi albums, and, incidentally, in the solo music of Moore's Zombi partner A.E. Paterra, whose second album under the Majeure moniker, Solar Maximum, also arrived in October 2012. An all-synthesizer outing absent any contributions from Paterra on drums, Light Echoes draws from the experimental streak in '70s electronic music, perhaps to a greater extent than Zombi and/or Majeure, but, like groundbreaking sequencer-driven TD albums such as Phaedra and Ricochet, this is still music with a definite pulse. Yet the listener is advised to relax, be patient, and allow the 70-plus-minute album -- including the 28-minute final track "Ancient Shorelines II" -- to reveal gradually the full extent of its immersive powers. Employing an array of vintage analog synths and ancillary equipment (although Edgar Froese likely didn't have an iMac 3.06 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo back in the day), Moore puts his own 21st century imprint on music that is both rhythmic and free-floating, as repeating blippy synth arpeggios maintain steady momentum while deep slow-moving drones, building chord orchestrations, and cosmic wind effects emerge across the sound field.
Some might wish for a bit more variation in the arpeggiated sequencer patterns of the first two tracks, "Tyken's Rift" and "Light Echoes I," although there is also an interesting war of sorts between the rhythmic elements and tidal waves of slow-moving, engulfing sound. The battle ends in a draw on this initial pair of tracks, while the absence of any fast and sharply articulated rhythmic looping on third track "Aldebran Exchange," with its measured movement and layering of sounds from windy to ominous to razor-sharp to ethereal, suggests that Eno-esque dark ambience might have triumphed in the end. But really, less than 20 minutes of Light Echoes have transpired, and "Aldebran Exchange" is merely a bridge to a pair of the album's most animated -- relatively speaking -- pieces, "Light Echoes II" and "Protomorphosis." The former -- despite Moore's professed interest in making Light Echoes an album of "sounds" rather than "songs" -- actually introduces a bit of compositional tension through a drawn-out chord progression (gasp!) in the arpeggiated sequences that moves toward and away from consonance with high- and low-pitched pedal-point synth drones. Meanwhile -- both here and especially in "Protomorphosis" -- Moore's knob twiddling produces a welcome textural complexity in the arpeggios and ostinatos that, when compared to the album's first third, almost sounds like an interstellar West African-inspired polyrhythmic drum circle. This is all merely prelude to the aforementioned "Ancient Shorelines II," however, which traverses insistent percolations, throbbing pulses, pounding martial beats, and dissonance-tinged chordal onslaughts across its epic half-hour length. ~ Dave Lynch