Serpent's Lair


aec.pjk107.2 10/10/00 New

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    Serpent's Lair Projekt Records

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Review Text The Serpent's Lair is a shamanic journey by Steve Roach, Byron Metcalf, and a host of other musicians, including Vidna Obmana, Jorge Reyes, and Lena Stevens. The means of finding the underworld is the shaman's drum. On this double-disc set, all the variants on that drum are presented, from loops and shakers and frame drums, djembes, ocarinas, dumbeks, tom toms, bass drums, and many more. Each piece operates as a stage of transformation from one state to the next, from "The Lair" to the "Rite of Passage" to "Shedding the Skin" on disc one to the "Primal Passage," "Serpent Clan," and the "Beating Heart of the Mother Dragon" on disc two, with many stages in between. Rhythm being the key, the heartbeat of each piece, and bonding each musician to another, it would take Roach to meld them all in a manner that suggests the intimate, microscopic process by which not only the awareness of such a process takes place but its actual movement. Roach carries within himself the ability to shed his own skin with each new project, and with a collaboration as large as this one, he was the master of alchemy, or, as he prefers to call his contribution, "Groove Alchemy." Given the shape-shifting cross, poly, and counter rhythms produced by this tribe in Roach's "Timeroom in Arizona," all of which had to at some point speak to each other in the language brought about by the creation of the process of collaboration in the first place, there had to be sound worlds to accommodate them. Metcalf, a master percussionist, provided the impetus for the intersection of rhythms, while Roach provided both the sonic archeology and ambient architecture to erect virtual worlds of sound that existed in no other place. His "cave," or "underworld" is a place rife with images and noise. It is noted that some of the sounds occurring here can never be recreated; they were spiritual utterances from this cavern of soul travel. When, on "Rite of Passage" Lena Stevens sings, in a heavily processed voice, an ancient chant for the healing of the heart by the earth and its elements, the drummers carry that message into the earth and Roach its healing out into the world via his expanding sonic vocabulary that includes as many sounds as the various languages being spoken here can hold. On disc two, the "Offering in Waves" is a shifting, sliding rhythm of elation, of ecstasy that informs the rest of the set. When the voices of the "Cave Dwellers" begin their chant, the entire project has arrived intact, in the place where transformation begins in earnest -- all of the known is gone, left behind, nothing but ashes remain. Here, textures and colors glimmer and fade in the mix, drums are understated, speaking softly to one another in the darkness of the cave. In "Serpent Clan," the processed voice of the shaman governs the track as he gives utterance to what he sees, what he is becoming. Drums slowly grant him passage through deeper corridors into the imagination at the center of the earth. The "Beating Heart of the Dragon Mother" is the voice of the transformed shaman, all the way inside his journey. All of the individual collaborators on this project disappear into this voice, into this mix; into this sound world there is no center but that voice and its assent to the crisscrossing rhythms. Finally, in "Ochua," the collaborators all resume their individual identities, the shaman re-enters the world, informed by the vision and depth of knowledge gained in the underworld. Roach and Metcalf create an understatement of beauty, polyrhythmic grace, and sensuality as it washes over the listener like rain. That these two men could simulate with all the contradictions inherent in their cultures, the shaman's journey to the lair of the snake, and give it credence and authenticity by the singleness of their purpose is indeed commendable. However, that they have created the journey for anyone with a CD player to make is another thing altogether. While the same experience encountered by those

Track Listing

CD: 1

  1. 1. Lair - 12:14
  2. 2. Rite of Passage - 14:09
  3. 3. Shedding the Skin - 6:39
  4. 4. Big Medicine - 13:53
  5. 5. Future Tribe - 9:30
  6. 6. Birthright - 6:59
  7. 7. Osmosis - 4:04
  8. 8. Egg Chamber Dreaming - 9:35

CD: 2

  1. 9. Offering in Waves - 11:55
  2. 10. Impending Sense of Calm - 9:03
  3. 11. Cave Dwellers - 23:08
  4. 12. Primal Passage - 5:47
  5. 13. Serpent Clan - 5:02
  6. 14. Breathing Heart of the Dragon Mother - 7:50
  7. 15. Ochua - 9:26

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