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Ambient Masterworks by Steve Roach

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Steve Roach, whose name has long been synonymous with the American ambient electronic movement, is also a musician (or sonic sculptor) with a considerably prolific output. Clearly, this man's creativity has no "off" switch.

Roach also has a tendency to simultaneously release several recordings, as exampled by the following...

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STEVE ROACH: All Is Now (double CD on Timeroom Editions)

During the Spring and Summer of 2002, Steve Roach conducted an ambitious tour, playing concerts in Sedona, Portland, Oakland, and San Francisco. "All Is Now" consists of selections from that tour, a total of 144 minutes of breathtaking contemporary electronic music.

Disc one offers a 74 minute collage of tracks from the tour, including excerpts from Roach's five hour ambient performance for the opening of Yoko Ono's retrospective at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in June of 2002. Here you will encounter languid passages of seething calm punctuated by nocturnal sounds that merge with the soothing tonalities, generating a twilight pastiche. Harsher textures rise to saturate the audience and generate more tension amid the drifting sonic vapors. Tempos (created by electronic pulsations occurring in a rolling structure) lend a churning rhythm to the mists, opening the path to a cohesion between the minimal and demonstrative elements. These rhythms surface with compelling results, establishing a peppiness to the overall trance that is intriguingly satisfying. Instead of disrupting the meditative state created by this music, these active beats inject an urgency to the atmospheric flow.

Meanwhile, disc two offers the complete Sedona concert (presented as it occurred except for a single edit to fit the performance on CD). In these 70 minutes, you will find more atmospheric textures coexisting with subtle-yet-substantive rhythms. The nimble and intricate E-perc infuses the ambience with grooves that instill cerebral activity, prompting the soothing tonalities to swell with more-than-subliminal authority. A presence of great power exudes from these sedate soundscapes. The stratospheric drones are augmented by slide guitar manipulations which only increases the haunting demeanor of the music.

One of the sounds employed by Roach (mainly on the second CD) is clearly sourced from the sound of a glass bottle rolling across a concrete surface. Although simple in its origins, this sound is subjected to intense and inventive processing, until what you hear is vibrantly ethereal and downright eerie.

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STEVE ROACH: Darkest Before Dawn (CD on Timeroom Editions)

This release from the end of 2002 features a single 74 minute track of absolute ambience.

As you might suspect, this music is excruciatingly minimal, consisting of ascendant drones that coalesce to convey an utter darkness that transforms--ever so gradually--into a somber sunrise of harmonic textures.

Here, Roach returns to his sparse but evocative style that mirrors near-indistinction. Tenuous threads of tonality drift with eternal sustain, seemingly unvarying while actually the drone is in a state of constant flux, mutating with such indolence that its progression becomes subliminal, reacting primarily on the listener's subconscious. The substance of the harmonic flow is ethereal and haunting. It comes in subtle waves, like a vaporous surf that you cannot see or feel, but whose resonance stirs your soul with its feathery caress.

Imagine if you took away all the sounds of civilization, stilled the chittering of insects and silenced every nocturnal creature, even stopped the wind. If you listened very hard, the night would still have a sound...and this music is a remarkable approximation of that dark sigh. Roach has superbly captured that dimensionless presence. This music exactingly mimics that timeless state with its relentless serenity.

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STEVE ROACH: Day Out of Time (CD on Timeroom Editions)

This CD from 2002 features 73 minutes of atmospheric electronic music, the full soundtrack to the "Time of the Earth" DVD by Steve Lazur.

In actuality, this CD is a collection of tracks by Roach from various sources: his own releases, tracks previously found only on compilations, and--surprise--17 minutes of new material.

Overall, the music represents Roach's more arid, desolate side, soundscapes that evoke the natural wonders of the American West. Epic rock formations are conjured by his ethereal electronics, majestic heavens full of glorious clouds are generated by his atmospheric textures. Languid tonalities unfurl with minimal percussives chittering in the distance. Sound flows like a gas, immersing the audience and transporting them without movement on a voyage of the mind, stimulating the listener's creativity until they imagine floating above grand spectacles and soaring through stratospheric altitudes.

The "Time of the Earth" film is a gripping travelogue of Earth's most unearthly vistas, a geological visual feast that reveals incredible majesty in the most desolate regions of our planet. Besides Roach's gently stirring soundtrack, also featured on the DVD is a long-form version of "The Dream Circle" as an optional second soundtrack. Released on the Projekt label, the DVD is also available from Timeroom Editions.

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