[Reviewed by vitriol]
If you belong to the category of people who enjoy some quiet time alone during the nighttime, the cover photograph of this record will immediately appeal to you. An old, majestic tree, the branches of which extend to all sides, against a backdrop of deep blue sky alight with countless stars. The ideal image for any enthusiast of those little hours of the night, when everyone else around is fast asleep, and you get to have this meaningful silence all to yourself. You can hide in this velvet darkness regardless of where you are, but the feeling is always at its strongest in nature. Nature provides the framework for us to be able to bring to the surface that little piece of our soul that is directly linked to the primordial forces of this world.
Steve Roach and Kelly David have tried here to put this warm, enveloping feeling of the presence of night into musical terms, and their advanced, organic ambient electronica comes really close to the real thing. Using analog and digital synths but also traditional instruments such as ocarina and cedar flute, as well as field recordings, the first words that come to mind when searching for a verbal description of this music, are ‘shamanic’ and ‘earthly’. The ones directly following are ‘space’ and ‘cold’. Because there’s a sort of marriage of heaven and hell here, a conjunction of the immutable and the eternal on the one hand, and the finite and flawed on the other.
The first track, “Last Light”, is a token of that, as it consists of dark, deep drones vibrating in a state of continuous suspension. They rise and fall like soft winds sweeping the wilderness. Somewhere in the middle of the track the tone becomes slightly more melodic, but a mysterious, ghostly aura always hovers above this landscape of abstract elements and fading apparitions. There are moments here that could put the best dark ambient artists to shame. The wind instruments in “Season Of Nights” sound like ritual calls from within a virgin forest, and the elements increase as the track progresses. The darkness is impregnated with a multitude of voices, the stars are eyes all focused on one point. When man contemplates himself in their reflection, it is time to awaken rather than sleep. Indeed in “The Deep Hours” everything is fully awake. The sounds of insects, organic materials, earth, air and water, are emphasized by ethnic percussions keeping the rhythm of the ceremony. The music is always flowing and liquid, as if you’re lying half-asleep on a raft, drifting away somewhere in the Amazon.
After this reconciliation with all that isn’t human in the night, “Calm Hours” gradually puts us back on the path of spacious minimalism. While there are harmonic passages, ambient melodies and even the occasional organic sounds, there are significantly less elements here than in the previous two segments. The music begins to soar again, to abandon its earthly domain for a spiritual, contemplative sphere. And it completely takes off in the closing track, “The Long Night”. Since this is the album title and the track that is chosen to finish it with, its culmination of beautiful harmonies and melodic ambient feels like a celebration of the album’s concept. The listener is happily floating in a sky full of bright stars and cold, clear atmospheres. The analog synths add a traditional, progressive electronics aura to this already breathtaking track.
When you can’t go to nature, sometimes nature comes to you. Moreover, it is in you. It’s always been there. Comforting, relaxing, awe-inspiring, but also intimidating and perplexing. There are labyrinthine paths from which it is difficult to get out. Other paths may lead you to the light. And, as these things usually go, you never know which is which until it’s already too late. “The Long Night” with its clean-cut, but also accessible, emotional and melodic electronica and the uncanny ability of both these ingenious musicians to create imagery-specific atmospheres, could serve as a key to access this part of yourself. Just close your eyes, and the music will do the rest.