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Mystic Chords & Sacred Spaces (hard-boxed edition!)
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immersion : three (ltd edition)
Empetus (2-CD Collector's Edition)
Asunder (on Steve Roach . com )
Steve Roach's new 2-CD set seamlessly fuses three long unfolding soundworlds into a vibrant sonic odyssey. The result can only be described as a living, breathing Arc of Passion. As one of the great pioneers of electronic music, Steve's career has many musical highpoints; Arc of Passion proves to be another definitive statement along the path. Advanced response from listeners places this album at the top of the long list of must-have releases from Steve’s body of work. Steve reaches into his sonic palette to weave elements of his three definitive styles into a continuous, evolving flow. Rich harmonic chords, spiraling sequences and deep sky soundworlds move fluidly within this 2-hour set.
A vibrant immediacy is alive on Arc of Passion; the sonic textures and evolving nature of the pieces reach into the core of the present moment bringing it into form with elegance and energy.
The opening 19-minute track billows outwards with rich and shadowed harmonic movement; deep chords ebb and flow like the thunder clouds of a summer storm, entering the realm of the hauntingly serene Mystic Chords & Sacred Spaces or Magnificent Void albums. The set flows into the 60-minute title track built from layers of percussive and melodic patterns interwoven and evolving while holding a steady pulse and direction. Waves of emotion from intertwining sequencers provide the foundation for the evolving trance patterns that develop into full mesmerizing, passionate form. The closing 20-minute piece is deep primal ambience mixed with processed didgeridoo hovering within an expansive soundscape. Long, arching tendril-like forms breathe within this infinite soundfield.
"This arc represents a trajectory of emotion infused with energy," Steve comments. Arc of Passion is a deep and vibrant expression of life lived passionately.
Arc Of Passion, Roach's latest release, demonstrates the immediacy of a specific moment in time translated into music that reaches beyond language or percussive rhythm. He was driving from San Francisco to Southern California and listening to recent performances he had given in Philadelphia, Arizona and on the radio when he came to the realization that three pieces in particular seemed to share a kind of sonic relationship which intrigued him. Just a few days later, on 07-07-07, he recorded these songs live in front of eighty people and the material has now been released as the double-disc Arc Of Passion on the Projekt label.
Stretching just over 100 minutes in length, this latest improvised work references classic Roach material while retaining a unique edge of its own, seeming fresh while still remaining familiar to his loyal fanbase. Admirers both old and new will find plenty to like about this dramatic arc, which begins with the understated "Moment Of Grace." Riding soothing sine waves that build and then retreat, the listener is lulled into a comforting stratospheric region deftly expressing pure finesse. If you are unfamiliar with this style of elucidation it would be easy to dismiss it as simplistic, endless droning but for the fact that, in the hands of a master such as this, the subtleties enhance the movement and enrich the experience. Roach seems to possess a keen, almost preternatural, sense about when to introduce a higher register, bring things down to a hush or sustain a precious note.
The track morphs into the title number, and without even realizing it the listener is transported into another realm that is at once congruent yet ultimately divergent. This is where rhythm presents itself, not in a traditional sense through the presence of beats, but by using sequencers which echo repetitive strains that keep the music grounded while still possessing an air of ascendancy. The movement is split in half, the first part rounding out disc one, then completed on disc two. Lasting more than an hour, "Arc Of Passion" manages to remain interesting and transcendent, providing pleasures both cerebral as well as emotional and continues to grow in depth with each subsequent listen, embodying the type of heat necessary to mold metal into grand structure and statuesque beauty.
The album is rounded out by the curious "Views Beyond," and this is where the arc makes a surprising curve entirely unexpected considering the direction of the first two parts. Roach's familiar didgeridoo is employed to maximum effect here, aiding in outlining a dark, cavernous space that lies in stark contrast to the warming moments of the album's previous 80 minutes. The song elicits a strikingly uneasy feeling like a harmony that suddenly hits a dissonant chord. The ultimate resolution doesn't leave one feeling cold, but it still comes as somewhat of a shock after such a long and embracing expanse of lush music. It is up to the individual listener to interpret just what Roach was attempting to achieve through this particular "arc," but the journey is a fascinating one and the passion evident in the execution is highly commendable. Whether you are a longtime fan of Steve Roach's enormous back catalogue or a relative newcomer to the Ambient genre your music collection would no doubt benefit from this album's inclusion. Roach is as relevant a composer and performer now as he has been for almost thirty years. I would entreat you to follow along on his current Arc Of Passion.
It all starts out in fine lush fashion with the track Moment of grace thats built around beautiful harmonic synth patterns that ebb and ripple around you. Gving a feeling akin to a soothing sea slipping in an out of a golden beach, You really sink deep into it’s relaxing sound waters, slowly bobbing off on harmonic bliss. Next up we have the first part of the title track thats rhythmic electronica based ambient track for the most part brought to mind an updated take on Tangerine Dreams rythmic 1970's work , with ambient techno and tribal twists. It all starts off rewarding enough for the first ten minutes or so, Roach nicely moving around the rhythmic textures & sounds to keep ones attention nicely to summon up an effective atmosphere. The problem comes at around mid-way point through the half an hour track, he just seems to simply run out of stream and loops out the same repetitive rhythmic texture over and over again for about ten minutes becoming very tiresome indeed.
By the second part of the title track that opens up disk two he’s found his creative feet once more. The tracks still beat bound but it’s just so much more focused, hypnotic and rich with sonic progression over the heady & slowly shift rhythmic matter. He moves a wonderful emotional touched synth patterns over the beat, having almost an smouldering cinematic string quality about them. Lastly we have Views beyond which returns to beat-less synth territory to create a rather mystical sounding end track that hums and shudders with didgeridoo textures. The track has quite a haunted and sombre vibe to it giving the feeling of moving through dusk embraced desert mountain scapes.
On the whole another rewarding and for the most past consistent ambient journey from Mr Roach primed for drifting off into ones imagination with its rich, lush & emotional charged sound textures. -Roger Batty
Four compositions (technically three since the title track starts on disk 1 and continues on disk 2) are found on this release:
Celestial tones establish a cloudy foundation that sedates the audience, wiping clean all traces of tension or material concerns from the mind. Gradually, these drones swell with puissance, and alternate layers emerge to season the soundscape with a rising sense of authority. Density evolves from these sparse expressions, achieving a heavenly intensity that becomes peppered with instances of stratospheric brilliance. Chillier resonance enters the mix, forcing the harmonies back to earth...
...where the grandeur adopts a livelier disposition. Keyboard patterns appear, injecting pep with a dreamy lining. Additional threads surface, increasing the flow's depth. Hyperactivity creeps in as these patterns begin to amalgamate into a luscious convergence of passionate substance. These bundled notes surge with such velocity that they adopt a rhythmic presence, propelling the music to even more emphatic levels of cerebral stimulation. The mix becomes a crowded realm of urgency.
The second disk picks up where the prior track left off: amid a swirl of penultimate excitement. This time, the electronic riffs are bolstered by a percussive undercurrent that remains subliminal yet thoroughly infectious. Lofty tones attribute a Germanic flair that serves to start the mix on an angelic elevation. The pace becomes relentless, establishing a sedate frenzy that spurs each synapse into acute activity.
Gradually, this impulsive hyperactivity ebbs, dwindling into a cosmic pause of breathy cybernetic sighs. Abstract electronics soon fill this void, evoking an interstellar medium of portentous character. Growling tones rise into dominance, establishing a harsh epiphany that flows into a glimmering passage designed for insights to flourish. A hint of didgeridoo lends a numinous edge to the tranquil finale.
The majesty of this music is incarnate, from the delicate soundscapes to the compelling intensity inherent in the title track(s). Roach creates tuneage here that blends ambience with passages of impressive vitality. There is no escape from being drawn in; whether the seduction is gentle or vibrant, his compositions bewitch as they revitalize.
Steve Roach describes the outcome as the "deeper end of my tribal ambient sound", and surely draws parallels to previous albums like "Proof Positive" and "Mystic Chords".
Both discs contain 50 minutes of carefully sculptured and shaped, slow morphing textural and sequenced music in which Roach’s ongoing search for even deeper, and further layered soundcurrents becomes apparent.
It’s a grand piece of precision and passion featuring beautiful sequences and great bridges between the different soundworlds, all made by a musician who’s quest for the deep end of sounds never seems to stop. All in all, "Arc of Passion" is a truly solid release that any Roach fan will fully embrace.
The story to this double-CD already reveals a lot about what distinguishes it. ARC OF PASSION is the absolute opposite of a conscious intellectual effort. In fact, in a sense, its pieces are byproducts. Their creation falls into a time of intense, concentrated and deeply rewarding work, including performances at the Philadelphia Gathering concert, radio performances and a twelve-hour long non-stop gig in Arizona. While driving from San Francisco to Southern California, Steve Roach was listening back to three of the tracks from the Philadelphia Gathering and a relationship between them started to reveal itself. A few days later, on July 7th 2007, he recorded the material to ARC OF PASSION in a single day.
Both typical and headstrong
With some artists, the most important albums are also the most typical ones in their discography. With others, it is the headstrong works that stick out. ARC OF PASSION, interestingly enough, is both. This is why the album's title is so fitting in this respect: The arc stretches from the ambient aspect of Steve Roach's oeuvre to his more rhythmic side, from the golden feeling of puckering sequencer lines to digital pads and from enveloping softness to confrontational rawness. The title track then fuses these elements in a one hour long emotional landscape of fibrillating digital dots, hidden subsonic bass echoes, moments of intense, motionless stillness and a heartfelt string motive, which repeatedly errupts into passionate melodic outcries.
All of this is significant for several reasons. For one, it shows that Roach, despite a career of almost thirty years, is still capable of approaching his art from a both playful and spontaneous angle. It also demonstrates that in his world, the choice of equipment and musical forms of expression is in no way equal to the piece itself. The aforementioned title track could, on the merit of its sound and structure, easily be categorised as an outtake of the sessions to last year's PROOF POSITIVE. Yet, Roach bends the limits of his fabric and dances on its outer edge, where the fibres have turned into spindly threads, uncovering secrets where tracks like "Westwind" or "Adreno Stream" had already ended.
Personality instead of Perfection
And finally, the album is a perfect example for the notion that it is not necessarily perfection that brands an album as a classic, but rather personality. It is the way in which "Moment of Grace" gushes open with a dazzling sequence of wounded chords until it has run dry into a tonally fixed wildwater stream of melancholic harmonics and pulsating drones. It is how Roach keeps it alive by continually inflating its surface by his creative breath. It is how the title track uses the smallest of variations in its rhythmic surface to present its underlying theme in continually changing colors, and how that piece streams forth from "Moment of Grace" in a fluent gesture, only to then be interrupted at its most hypnotic moment at around the thirty-minute mark for a change of discs.
The latter is certainly a radical decision, but also one among many which make up the special appeal of ARC OF PASSION. Of course, the real Steve Roach fan will have his deja vus and moments of recognition. But other than the obvious return of the composer's natural character traits, the work exists for its own sake alone, a product of the pure will to create. It may be logical that someone with such a long career as Roach should find it easy to fall back on his own strengths instead of quoting others in a bid for wide acceptance. But the fact that this has become an exception of sorts makes this an important album, not only in terms of Roach's own discography but the experimental music landscape overall. -Tobias Fischer