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The Call (mastered by Steve Roach)
Blending the two core aspects of his work, Steve ramps up for the fall of 2009 with the stunningly expansive Destination Beyond. This all-new release combines immersive atmospheric harmonic zones (like those recently experienced on Dynamic Stillness) into the setting of spiraling patterns and hypnotic rhythms (similar to those found on Arc Of Passion). Perfectly blending these two sonic qualities over the course of the continuous 71-minute piece, the flowing soundscapes on Destination Beyond propel the mood to a mesmerizing state which is unique from any of Steve’s pure rhythmless immersive work while achieving a similar sensation that works perfectly in repeat playback mode.
Destination Beyond pushes electronic music to its highest level, living and breathing in the immediacy in which it was created. The album flows along an organic continuum. Clocked, synced and performed in unison within Steve’s desert studio, it showcases his mastery of a life-long devotion to hands-on performance. Utilizing real analog synthesizers with knobs and sliders, a mixing console and real-time processing as an additional instrument results in soundscapes infused with a pure natural flow. It is an artisan approach to sound that is quite rare in today’s cut and paste approach to electronic music.
Within an impressive body of work that spans nearly 30 years, certain stylistic forms evolve and reappear as significant signposts, as touchstones for both the listener and the artist. This release clearly draws from the heart and soul of Steve’s sonic vision.
Destination Beyond is infused with breaths of life and forward momentum which draws the listener into a serene sense of physical and mental travel. The sound ebbs and flows in constant movement; the meditation of emotion in the music is a yearning for what is over the next rise. As Steve explains in the liner notes, “When the Destination Beyond calls the heart must go... The magnetic pull and drive towards the point on the horizon, towards the Destination Beyond. Never reaching this point - but always seeing it just ahead - remains a constant theme and impetus in my life.”
This piece was recorded in Steve's new desert studio, not far from where the cover image was taken.
Steve Roach's 1984 opus Structures from Silence has been a staple of my record collection for ages, but it has been about eight years since I last checked out anything new from him. Although he can sometimes be a bit too earthy for my taste, Destination Beyond shows that Steve has not yet abandoned the spacier side that produced The Magnificent Void, nor have his powers begun to ebb at all. I wish I had been paying more attention, as he seems to be in the midst of a rather fruitful creative period.
Destination Beyond consists of a single 71-minute track that is very much a kindred spirit to Brian Eno's Apollo, owing largely to its shimmering washes of warm synths and general spacious and shadowy atmosphere. Notably, there is not much else to it, merely a slow bass pulse, a burbling arpeggio, and some skittering percussion. Also, it does not unfold into multiple movements or sections: the drifting, spectral tones that open the piece remain central for its entire duration. Nevertheless, it all works extremely well due to Roach's clear mastery of the form. While nothing new ever appears, the song's sparse components subtly wax and wane in relation to one another throughout and it all flows seamlessly and organically, which is likely the result of Roach's insistence on playing in real-time and eschewing most contemporary computer-editing practices. It almost sounds like he is manipulating how each individual note dissolves and decays, which would require an almost inhuman degree of meticulousness (but probably would not surprise me).
Roach seems completely unconcerned with and uninfluenced by prevailing trends in drone and ambient music: there is nothing here that indicates that it could not have been released in the early '80s. While certainly indebted to Eno, Klaus Schulze, and Tangerine Dream for his original inspiration, Steve’s biggest influence always seems to be himself. I think that is probably an admirable trait, but it is an interesting contrast to the trajectory of his erstwhile collaborator Vidna Obmana (Dirk Serries), who has found a new generation of fans as Fear Falls Burning. Roach seems decidedly unlikely to deliver any such surprises himself, but the reward for his steadfastness seems to be a sophistication and elegance that is uniquely his own (the rewards here are greater for connoisseurs of the form, I believe).
Destination Beyond is a very good album. It's hard for me completely fall in love with it, as it is a bit too calm and edgeless (despite some foreboding undertones) for my taste, but I am nonetheless extremely impressed with the virtuosity of Roach textural juggling act. Also, it is a pretty excellent and deserving addition to the space music canon, certainly holding its own against Roach’s revered precursors (who are also generally too calm and edgeless for my taste).
The western musical synthesized wind sweeps dry dunes and flies over, as the shadows of American eagles, the vestiges of a world where the sonorous poetry is the meeting point between the breaths of an ethereal daydreaming to flexible and skin-tight rhythms of a spiritual trance. With Destination Beyond, Steve Roach pursues his quest for a transcendental music which mixes the Zen beliefs to hypnotico-trances rhythms with ruse clothings that cogitate in an elixir of serenity. A skillful mixture of the sweet and dark tranquility of Dynamic Stillness to the neurotic agitation, but well controlled, of Arc of Passion. Simply divine!
A dark and slightly fleeing soundwave opens the first measures of Destination Beyond which extends to a long epic title of 72 minutes. The synth is of crystalline breaths which hoot with elegance through stigmas of a fanciful desert. Soon we perceive its captivating and rippling sublime stratas which characterized the magnificent and out of print Western Spaces released on Innovative Communication in 1986. The sonority is so close that we can’t ignore the resemblance and we are letting ourselves overrun by this soft sound influx which broods increasing pulsations to sidewinder terminations that entangle with a balanced loudness with layers of angelic sonorities. Steve Roach's world evolves with its musical convictions. Here, there is no salute to musical atomism. Destination Beyond teems of a life full of powerful oscillations which are gobbled up by slinky and crystalline stratas to morphic roundness’s. But the intensity of its sound ethereal layers don’t deaden nor keep silent the resonances and pit viper pulsations which abound in this acoustic fauna where diversity timbers are so complex to this American musical synthesist fetes. Of course, everything is not similar, nor linear. Steve Roach brings subtle variances where the rhythm isolates itself, bringing a movement of sweet hypnotic trance, and sometimes disappears to leave the entire place to superb and smooth layers which wind around in a cerebral cortex high in phonic forms. By moments, this poetic tenderness is going violent and is making justice with a so elongated linearity that we getting near Morpheus arms.
In brief, another stroke of genius by Steve Roach which years after years continues to amaze on the same sound themes, but with so tempestuous approaches that the sweetness can allow it. Destination Beyond is a magnificent introspective journey which flows with all the poetry and the wisdom of the master of music thought and conceived to be heard with the tranquility of its movements. - Sylvain Lupari
In decades past, a band known as Tangerine Dream created incredible suites of music unveiled as albums, many of which are considered classic to this day. Their innovative and synthesized compositions laid the groundwork for what is now known as ambient music. They left behind Stratosfear, Phaedra, Alpha Centauri, Ricochet, even the fantastic soundtrack to Sorcerer. They explored further the limits of the developing genre further with classic albums like Cyclone, and Force Majeure before becoming too saccharine for die-hard fans' musical ears.
Steve Roach is perhaps the one significant ambient artist that has explored the Tangerine Dream template, modifying along the way to great success. His expanded layering has created a mass of excellent albums, many that can put a finger directly on the pulse of the Tangerine Dream legacy.
His latest Projekt release, Destination Beyond, is a single composition clocking in at 71+ minutes. It begins softly before developing into a pulsing grand darkness that is eerie yet inviting. It lures you into a complete, uninterrupted span of mental 'traveling discoveries' reminiscent of not only TD's Sorcerer, but also of TD's Stratofear (at points).
Steve Roach has thematically called this album a soundtrack of forward movement. He calls it a "...magnetic pull and drive towards the point on the horizon, towards the destination beyond.". It becomes an unreachable "point," always "...just ahead...," therefore always urging forward, much like our lives. The tone of the music consistently grows darker with the hint of others nearby, yet never seen. The urgency grows, the push towards what is at the end relentless yet unrevealing. There is a fearful majesty in the music. But there is also an extended stretch of time where you're gazing into the limitless night skies, contemplating the next unknown path before beginning again. The aural journey of Destination Beyond is a pure one, quite enjoyable for its generously extended and uninterrupted allotment of time.
If one can find fault with Roach's burgeoning catalog, it is with the fact that his prolific talents find their expression on too many albums, too quickly. We barely get a chance to absorb one release and he has another in our hands not too much later. This makes it difficult for fans to point to one release (or a number of releases) and deem then classic. We simply don't get the time to "live" with them like we lived with the brilliant Stratosfear. Regardless, Roach can easily transcend the greatness of Tangerine Dream. He has all of the elements within the depths of his compositions. Destination Beyond could become a memorable classic in the haunting template of Tangerine Dream. Rating: 4/5
This release from 2009 offers 72 minutes of delicately rhythmic ambience.
Tenuous harmonic waves achieve a constant pattern that actually changes, but does so in such a gradual fashion as to defy notice. But--that’s what ambience is all about: establishing a soundtrack that walks a fine line between “hey, ya hear that?” and “hey, I didn’t notice there was anything to hear.”
Roach has mastered the ability to craft soundscapes that deliver to both opinions. His music can function as a barely discernible backdrop or provide silence with an extra boost. Subliminal sounds don’t not exist, they aren’t supposed to be noticeable. And one can rightfully say that Destination Beyond fulfills that criteria.
On the other hand, discerning ears can argue that this release possesses sonic body and depth. Ethereal vapors are generated, then tempered with additional waves of gentility. The flow is constant, but variations are present. Admittedly, this release does exhibit a tad more substance than many of Roach’s examples of extreme ambience. The atmospheric flow features several passages of distinctly audible melodies. They emerge slowly, but when they appear they possess engaging definition. And a little rhythmic presence too, as electronic pulses are cycled to produce delicate tempos.
In fact, as the single track progresses, rhythms become more prominent, contributing sinuous threads that will drag the dreamer closer to the surface of their mind (while never achieving an intrusive presence that might interfere with one’s train of thought).
If you’re the type of person who sits back and actually pays rigorous attention to music like this, you’ll be rewarded with serpentine rhythms winding their way through nebulous electronic vistas. Cyclic electronics provide a secondary level of harmonics rippling through the ephemeral constant.
In all fairness, these rhythmic passages do not run throughout the album’s entirety. There are stretches in which the ambience is dominant, allowing new tempos to eventually surface and play out...before dwindling away for another section of minimal dreaminess.
Which only serves to enhance the album’s overall charm.
Never being able to settle down has provided Steve Roach with the defining inspiration for his work: Behind the undeniable satisfaction of completing a new album lies the immediate urge to exceed it. Mapping out one sonic territory inevitably leads to the discovery of an adjacent, even more alien and intriguing landscape. And a seemingly simple idea will branch out into a neural cobweb of potentials and possibilities. Destination Beyond is thus not just another title in a wildly proliferating discography. At least to Roach, it is a philosophy of life and a sonic siting of his status quo. Into his fourth decade as an artist, two core strands have formed in his oeuvre: Rhythmically charged mantras as well as epic, freely floating meditations on time and form. Like winding paths through Roach's imagination, these have, as on his widely acclaimed 2007 full-length Arc of Passion, occasionally intersected, creating feverish and ecstatic prisms of both architectural serenity and emotional immediacy. Although Destination Beyond outwardly appears to be following a similar trajectory, it isn't merely creating a a stylistic collision. It literally fuses these two poles to a degree that one can no longer be separated from the other.
It is a proposition expressing itself in a single composition of seventy-one minutes. Running through its entire length is a continuous soundscape composed of a deep drone in the key of c and sustained string-tones, which occasionally coalesce into theme-like lines and variations, with the motive being passed from lower to higher regions in what appear to be entirely intutive processes. Around the three-minute mark, anthemic sequencers slowly start washing over this glacial field of yearning. They are driven by a deep, monolithic bass running at half the speed of the other elements and eventually open up into a panorama of myriads of both extremely short and expansive patterns. With unfaltering inventivity, Roach keeps their inner tension and frictions simmering, narrowing down the riverbed to a playfully babbling brook in one moment, only to expand it into a sweeping stream in the other. Almost half-way into the piece, the rhythms suddenly ebb away again and Destination Beyond enters into a long passage of timeless drift. For thirteen minutes, the listener is alone with the slow oscillation of the opening soundscape, its unperturbed surface and inner calm suggesting a space of contemplation and silence. And yet, Roach's mesmerising milling-machines return for one last round of dreamy palpitations, before allowing the music to finally fade away in perfect piece.
While percussive passages and ambient sections seem to take turns, they are, in fact, clearly conceptualised as a coherent and indivisible texture. Rather than propelling the soundscape forwards like wind pushing clouds across a clear blue sky, his rhythms seem to work like a powerful dam, through which the music passes like sparkling water. Ever since the tour de force of Proof Positive, Roach has established his unique own style of sequencing and it is strikingly present here as well: Instead of developing his lines through adjustments in their melodic content, gradual shifts in accent, timbre and density reveal continually new structures within the same construct. Despite their imposing sonic wideness - spreading out across a four full octaves - these sequences suspend time, drawing the listener into the moment, rather than locking him into their movement and confronting him with equally seductive and threatening washes of sound, with metalically rattling and sweetly humming patterns buzzing from left to right like sonic fireflies. It is astounding that there doesn't seem to be a single moment of mechanical repetition within this framework, as Roach presents his audience with discretely varied juxtapositions in which rotating layers are taking the lead each time, creating entirely different sensations from what seem to be identical elements.
These fundamental layers literally feed off each other, pushing the piece's main melodic motive from truncated three-note lines to jubilant fountains of quints in the acmes of highest density, cooling off to a virtually dormant ocean of loose tones in the quiet, contemplative moments. Shortly before the first long stretch of quietude is terminated, this continuous field seems to respond to the renewed advent of rhythm by creating more expansive melodic shapes again, as though it were being brought back to life with a cosmic defibrillator. It is here that one realises the underlying principle of Destination Beyond: The sequences are animating the soundscape, changing its colour, rate of transformation and character. In their complete absence, the action consequently grinds to a halt, like a radio bravely trying to keep playing while its battery is fading, the music wobbling and deforming, before dying down to a whisper, quiet crackle and then, finally, complete silence. It would certainly not be far-fetched to consider this coming and going as a metaphor for the spiritual process of creation, the breath of life blowing through inanimate matter and moving it.
Of course, there is neither an end nor a beginning to this process, which is why it feels as though the album were merely a puny extract from processes spanning ages. Which is not to say that it were dissatisfying, but merely that satisfaction is to be derived from something other than a definable destination: Home is where the heart is and Roach has lost his on the back seat of a streetcar forever racing towards the horizon. -Tobias Fischer