Review: Steve Roden – Red Lath Work Paths Criss-Cross the Garden (A R C H I V E, Jan 21)

Silence is a thing often associated with Steve Roden. The California-based sound artist is most famous (and infamous) for his pioneering of lowercase music, along with the composers associated with the Wandelweiser group. His early works are mainly concerned with amplifying extremely quiet sounds, creating a unique feeling of hollowness in his music, or, as I like to call it, ‘audible silence.’ That being said, there’s not much silence on Red Lath Work Paths Criss-Cross the Garden, a tape released nearly twenty years after such genre-defining works as Crop Circles or Four Possible Landscapes. Instead, the C60 shares more qualities with Stars of Ice, perhaps my favorite of Roden’s albums. Apart from the spaces in between segments (the two side-long tracks are split up into short vignettes), there’s hardly a quiet moment; instead, Roden paints vivid soundscapes as vibrant and colorful as the artwork on the cover, conveying a peaceful, organic atmosphere with a wide variety of sounds. I find it difficult to get the title of the album out of my head when listening, because the small compositions’ airy drifts and calming harmonies really do evoke the image of a garden. Even the more synthetic, electronic sources used feel just as natural as the nature recordings and objects. The way they waltz woozily together is what gives Red Lath Work Paths its pleasant charm, a quality best heard at the end of “Cut Up Twice and With Orange Stars,” which swirls up a mixture of chirping crickets, electric buzzing, washing synth melodies, and soft waves of delay feedback to ease you into a warm, deep sleep. But you should probably wake up at some point to listen to side B, because—surprise!—it’s just as good.