STEVE ROACH: Skeleton Keys (CD on Projekt)
This 2015 release features 74 minutes of kinetic electronic music.
Lively electronics are keynote here, crafting bouncy tunes with strong sinuous undercurrents.
The electronics are more than just agile, they flow together to form a pastiche of glistening quality. Instead of merging, different threads coexist to form complex definition. Keyboards are crucial in the creation of many of these sounds, and while numerous loops are generated, they tend to vary with rapid velocity, constantly generating fresh patterns of tasty pulsations.
Much of the sounds employed dwell in the high range, but there are a few tracks that season this squeal factor with pensive bass, establishing a lush balance between these extremes.
Percussion is quite unnecessary here. Enough of the electronic riffs possess adequate pep to serve as rhythms; indeed, if basic rhythms are your thing, this music is guaranteed to delight, for a majority of its substance is comprised of these spry keyboard riffs.
In all honesty, one track does feature subtle percussives, but the tempos are gentle (and non-tribal) and the beats nestle comfortably amid the effervescent notes.
The intrinsic liveliness of these compositions marks them as different from the majority of Roach's releases. Instead of extreme ambience, these tunes flourish with sprightly energy. And the resulting melodies are enticing and delightful, if perhaps sometimes exhausting in their relentless zest. Another aspect differentiating these songs is their short duration (between 5 and 10 minutes), forcing them to muster themselves right out of the gate and progress through their developments without undue delay.
STEVE ROACH: Etheric Imprints (CD on Projekt)
This 2015 release features 74 minutes of tender ambience.
Here, we have an interesting dose of ambient tuneage that explores the acoustic side of minimalism as well as an electronic interpretation.
Initially, Roach utilizes the piano as his main instrument for the first half of the album. Languid notes linger, fading with a faint echo. A melody is described, but it is too stretched out to be instantly noted. The somber notes unfurl in sequences that evoke a somnambulant quality-or more precise: the realm one experiences passing from wakefulness and sleep.
Some electronics are present, but they remain secondary, even suppressed. These texturals hide deep in the relatively sparse mix, lending subliminal character to the piano. For the most part, these atmospheric electronics are often so tenuous as to become invisible, discernible solely in the piano notes' afterglow.
Gradually, tonal threads emerge from the vaporous environment to dominate things with their pointedly-subdued resonance. A strange density is achieved, pressure generated by the meticulous application of rarefied forces.
This music serves as a meticulously generated bridge between ambient and classical music. The minimal piano establishes a very organic presence that inevitably leads to a realm of sighing electronic pulsations.
Eventually, the electronics command the stage with their eerie presence, unleashing tonalities that ebb and flow in a manner more common among Roach's ambient compositions. This portion of the music actually musters a degree of authority with its surging waves.
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