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CD Feature/ Steve Schroyder: "Sun"

img  Tobias

There are many musicians laying claim to the term „cosmic“, but there is hardly anyone who deserves it more than Steve Schroyder. For, unlike the science-fiction-based childhood fantasies of most bands, space is a big void, a place where all-encompassing nothing manifests itself in darkness and silence – and Schroyder’s aural excursions have more often than not taken on the challenge of putting this infinite nature of the cosmos into sound. The idea of it as a metaphoric continuum, where categories break down and there are no more limitations or borders, has of course been adapted by the most diverse niche cultures, which is why he has regularly come close to a breakthrough in some of them. But almost always both his idiosyncratic style and restless nature have driven him on to new projects. “Sun”, originally released in 1992, certainly had the potential to appeal to a larger audience.

To be frank, though, its very premises also had the potential of turning off an even larger public. A collaboration with Swissborn freelance scientist and drug-activist Hans Cousto, it sets out to implement his theory of the “cosmic octave” and uses transpositions of the cheops pyramid’s dimensions into tones and tempos. It all sure sounds like an overdose of flowerpower at first, which has caused many to instantly discard it on the scrapyard of New Age nonsense. Which is unfair to both actors involved. For the implications of Cousto’s work, which he has laid down in a string of books, are not all that esoteric at all and in fact merely derive from a deeper look at Keppler’s dogma of celestial harmony. And Schroyder’s music, on the other hand, can be enjoyed regardless of the theoretical background. “Spirit of Cheops” is an eclectic and yet exteremely coherent affair, which sees the most diverse genres blend in a breathless fashion and some obvious oriental elements merge with the thick synthesizer maelstrom enacted by Steve and his guestmusicians, as welll as some suprisingly tactile sonorities. Schroyder prooves to be a master at building impressive three-dimensional sceneries, whose intensity derives mainly from the supernatural colours of the instrumentation as well as its minimalism – there is not a note or a sound too many on this album and each and every element is given the necessary space to breathe. The use of shimmering layers of drones works especially well in connecting the individual threads and it is the inclusion of natural instruments and sudden ruptures in ambiance, which push the album forwards: On the 21 minute opening title piece, his mysterious chambers and scantly-lit corridors are seperated by the beats of humongous “Planet Gongs”, on “Gangway and Gallery”, a bizarre rock rhythm makes an apperance and in the closing “Sarcophagus” the final two and a half minutes belong exclusively to Didgeridoo player Gary Thomas. In its heart of hearts, this album is built up like a classic vinyl release: In its first half, the more up-front material is featured, while the second part gets all dizzy-headed and atmospheric, almost lifting off the ground entirely.

Still, thanks to its variety and architectural theme, this is definitely a more “earthly” release than “Planets” and “Klänge Bilder Welten”, which were conceived shortly before. Almost fifteen years after its inception, this re-release on Schroyder’s co-owned “Planetware” label, still doesn’t sound dated at all, even though the stinted use of reverb will go against some contemporary listening habits. Part of it would have (involutarily) fitted perfectly into the “Chill Out”phase of that time, but Steve’s mind was already somewhere else. He decided to go back to basiscs with the ethereal “A Call to Bliss” and then flirted with the Goa Trance community for a while. But whatever he did and however different his concepts were, he could never hide his roots as a cosmic musician. As this record goes to show, that was a blessing in many respects.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Steve Schroyder
Homepage: Planetware Records

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