Echo Location: Steve Roach & Erik Wollo

Steve Roach & Erik Wollo: A Norwegian ambient artist descends in the Arizona Desert.

You can hear an audio version of this blog, with music.

Stream of Thought Steve Roach lives on a horse ranch in Arizona, surrounded by saguaro cactus and 100 degree plus heat.  Erik Wollo lives in Norway surrounded by mountains, snow and nights that can last the entire day.  Their musical landscapes aren’t that similar either. Erik Wollo, composes plaintively melodic music, conceived around his guitars and electronics.  Steve Roach on the other hand, has built his reputation on expansive, slowly evolving works, with roiling textures usually free of obvious melodies. Yet, the two musicians got together on a  CD called Steve Roach 2003, Stream of Thought, on which they’ve found a meeting ground between melody and mood.
“I mean I love melodic music,” confesses Roach, speaking from his Timeroom studio in Arizona.  “I don’t necessarily want to be creating it at that level like the way Erik’s music is really constructed from very strong melodic senses.”

Erik Wollo Echoes Studio

Erik Wollo Echoes Studio

“And for me it’s probably one of the most non-melodic albums,” counters Erik Wollo from his Frederikstad studio.
Roach and Wollo have been mutual fans for years.  Wollo remembers first hearing Roach’s Dreamtime Return release.
“It was very inspiring,” he admits.  “I had it on the whole day, I remember, for a longtime.”
Roach was already familiar with Wollo’s music, tracking down obscure import releases like Traces.  “I heard Traces on vinyl back in the early 80s,” he recalls. “It is still one of my top 10 albums.  There is just an elegant really efficient and emotional quality about it that just holds up to me right now.  A timeless kind of feeling to it.”
You might not pick it up on first listen, but the initial inspiration for Stream of Thought came from driving.  After their first meeting in 2004, the musicians spent a couple of years sending music ideas back and forth to each other.
“Erik had sent me materiel for an album originally called “Music for Cars,” says Roach.
“I have his music in my car and he has my music in his car,” says Wollo.
That driving music evolved into Stream of Thought.  It is at once expansive and detailed.  In a fashion atypical of Roach, it’s composed of short vignettes and motifs that crossfade into a continuous work.  It launches with Wollo plucking multiple mandolins in a rapid, Reichian fashion as Roach brings in swirling pads and before you know it, your off into a work that swerves from rhythmically driving acid drops in “Part Two” to gently floating guitar arpeggios in “Part 9.”   The fact that Wollo is a guitarist as well as a synthesist lends Stream of Thought more melodic contour than you’ll usually hear from Roach.  And Roach brought in his reignited passion for analog synthesizers and sequencer patterns. Although Steve Roach and Erik Wollo travel in different music spheres, they each pass through space, electronic and ambient terrain.  When they got together in Roach’s Arizona studio for the final sessions of the album, they fell into synchronous orbits.
“It was great working together because we have a similar kind of approach it feels,” enthuses Roach.  “Just the way we focus in and really, not a lot of words and really focusing on the sound.”
“Actually we felt very free,” says Wollo. “We became one brain over there.”
You can hear the merged minds and music of Steve Roach and Erik Wollo on their album, Stream of Thought from the Projekt label.  We’ll hear an interview with the two musicians on Echoes Monday 3/23/09.  This has been an Echo Location, Soundings for New Music.  To listen to an audio version of this blog with music, go here.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

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3 Responses to “Echo Location: Steve Roach & Erik Wollo”

  1. general fuzz Says:

    Wow – that sounds like a fascinating album. I’ll have to check it out.

  2. Youngblood Says:

    Saguaros are unable to grow at the elevation of his ranch.

  3. echoesblog Says:

    That is technically true, but as Steve Roach writes: Its still relevant since I inhabit a wider range of desert now and at least every week I am doing rides in Saguaro “forests” just up the road…

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