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Steve Roach: Electronic Ambience

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Ambient pioneer Steve Roach delivers several new recordings that explore variations of the ambient genre.

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STEVE ROACH: Immersion 5: Circadian Rhythms (double CD on Timeroom Editions)

This release from 2011 offers 148 minutes of extreme ambience.

An alluring testament to what can be achieved with extreme electronic minimalism.

Disc 1 features tenuous harmonics that evoke subliminal effects through gradually pulsating electronic tonalities of a vaporous nature.

Sparse texturals establish themselves and endure throughout, expanding to swamp the field with their ethereal definition, then lingering seemingly forever, changing so subtly as to defy discernment yet transforming the flow in a dedicated fashion that doesn't go unnoticed by the listener's subconsciousness.

Delicate electronics waft on airy currents that keep everything afloat and in fluid motion. Density here is negative as the tonal threads unfurl their ephemeral substance, sighing in an eternal elongation that is seasoned by auxiliary harmonics (again so tenuous as to be virtually undetectable).

But as the tuneage progresses, subtle sonic events emerge from the flow. Remote rhythms (which spawn from electronic pulsations rather than any actual percussives), glittering glurps (that churn in the distance like mysterious manifestations), while some of the harmonic vapors gain ascendance, oozing through the mix with glutinous influence. An astral dreamstate is produced, one tempered by fragile progressions and inventive embellishments.

On disc 2 Roach flavors the expansive territory with textural guitar, achieving an even more pronounced atmospheric quality with tenuous layers of shimmering sustains that barely possess definition. The listener is immersed in an environment of gentle tones that smoothly caress the mind, isolating the subject from reality as a zone of ambrosial suspension is created. This amiable region endures a looong time, affording ample opportunity for undisturbed introspection.

These compositions epitomize what earned Roach his reputation as an ambient maestro. The minimalism is profound yet the music is distinguished by a charismatic evolution motivating the serene fluency.

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STEVE ROACH & BRIAN PARNHAM: The Desert Inbetween (CD on Projekt)

This release from 2011 offers 67 minutes of expansive music.

Roach plays: electric guitar (melodic, looped. textural and Ebow), analog and digital synthesizers. Euro rack modular system, megabass waterphone, hybrid grooves, ocarinas, and ambient percussion. Parnham plays: digital, VST and analog synthesizers, didgeridoo, udu drums, shakers, grooves, processing, muted guitar bass pulse, field recordings, various percussion, trance elements, and hornitos bottle.

Blending aspects of tribal and textural elements, this music explores the solitude inherent in a desert scenario.

The electronics are delicate and ethereal, delivering harmonic flows that hint at melodic definition while remaining unobtrusively atmospheric. Chords are elongated and coaxed to freely drift through a vaporous medium of additional tonalities. Auxiliary electronics contribute a twinkling presence which remains distant but discernible.

While some percussives are utilized. they do not contribute strong rhythms, instead tempering the streaming ambience with sparse tempos of a muffled nature. These beats generally reside just at the periphery of conscious detection, thereby providing a tasty subliminal presence that stirs the audience's deeply buried tribal memories.

The application of other tribal instruments enhances this primitive character while maintaining an elusive quality in the music, often haunting and quite engaging.

On other occasions, use of guitar effects establishes a mechanical churning that inspires an otherworldly flair.

The compositions are fragile and expansive. Instead of harnessing the desert's arid properties, the music evokes vast regions of emptiness and urges the listener to populate that void with their own introspective musings. By breaking down the barrier between reality and consciousness, this tuneage promotes psychological exploration--or just idle relaxation, although the chances are good that the former state will creep in to supplant the latter if given the opportunity. decorative rule decorative rule

STEVE ROACH: Live at SoundQuest Fest (CD on Timeroom Editions)

This CD from 2011 offers 74 minutes of gentle ambient music performed live at the debut SoundQuest Festival on October 23, 2010.

Joining Roach in his performance are: Byron Metcalf (on percussion and frame drum), Dashmesh Khalsa and Brian Parnham (both on didgeridoo).

Luscious texturals establish a perfect sonic escape into the realms of pleasant introspection.

The electronics manifest as gentle harmonic waves, each with seemingly endless duration, blending into the next pulsation, creating a complacent flow of infectious comfort.

Gradually, subtle percussion slides into the mix, tempering the flow with fragile embellishment. These rhythms slowly muster definition, offering tribal tempos to stir the listener's ancestral memories.

Meanwhile the electronic background begins to evolve, adding new layers of crystalline beauty which in turn commence to mutate into delicate variations.

The tribal beats fade, to be replaced by didgeridoo, which restores the primitive motif with mournful resonance. It should be noted that these didgeridoos are handled by masters who know how to coax an emotional range of sounds from the instrument, producing more than just the standard breathy drones. Synthetic flutes enhance this breezy template, stirring spirits that have remained dormant for ages.

Later, the tribal rhythms return, this time in tandem with the warbling didgeridoos, conjuring a milieu of haunting depth.

All the while, Roach's signature electronics sigh away, maintaining the tenuous airs of the harmonic environs. The music is relaxing and elusive, but with just enough touch of substance to hold the audience's attention and guide their minds inwards.

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STEVE ROACH & ERIK WOLLO: The Road Eternal (CD on Projekt)

This release from 2011 features 63 minutes of airy electronic music.

Roach plays: analog and digital hardware synths, Euro Rack modular, analog sequences, drum machines, synth bass, loops, and atmospheres. Wollo plays: processed electric guitars, guitar synthesizers, and analog and digital synthesizers.

The album begins with a long track that explores ambient territory with elongated tonalities seasoned by auxiliary sounds of equally fragile definition. A shimmery mood is established and maintained as the composition progresses through ephemeral regions to reach a zone of complex (but understated) activity.

The other (shorter) pieces mirror this delicate structure, creating acquiescent influence through the direction of ethereal sounds. Chittering noises and relaxed rhythms reside just at the edge of discernment, lending an illusion of distance and urging the listener to strive for elusive destinations.

Wollo's guitars are ghost-like, the treatments banishing all twang and transmuting the sounds into atmospheric tones that pulsate with vaporous certification.

A fascination with clouds is clearly evident in these wispy sonic structures, as the sounds approximate these heavenly configurations, generating patterns as different and entrancing as the gaseous masses that drift overhead. The play of light falling through these clouds is excellently captured by the musicians and offered as delicate variations on basic harmonic themes that persist in slowly metamorphosing into even more engaging patterns.

What is most amazing about these musicians is that, after years of producing ambient recordings, they still find ways to inject freshness to these delicate resonances, achieving soundscapes of unique and endearing character.

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