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Structures From Silence (2001 Remastered Ed.)
Mystic Chords & Sacred Spaces - part 2
THE RETURN OF A MASTERPIECE... REMASTERED VERSION AUGUST 23, 2005
Since its release in 1988, Dreamtime Return has earned its reputation as a genuine classic. The two-CD Magnum Opus is perhaps the most important, widely known and highly respected release in Steve Roach’s vast body of work. it serves as an essential benchmark within the Ambient-Ethno-Atmospheric genre.
“Steve Roach demonstrates that electronic music’s greatest potential may lie in bringing our most elusive dreams and ancient memories into focus through potent, highly imaginative soundscapes. This is without question Steve Roach’s masterpiece. 10-10 rating” CD Review
Roach’s travels in the Australian outback, along with studies of the Aboriginal Dreamtime, and his desert walkabouts in California were the life blood for this recording which still defies the boundaries of genre classification 17 years after its release. Dreamtime Return still sounds like a transmission from the near future and the very distant past.
"Dreamtime Return is more than a seminal recording that has influenced a generation of musicians. It's the voice you might hear calling back at you at the edge of the world." - John Diliberto, Echoes Radio, syndicated to over 150 stations nationwide. “Musically Dreamtime Return richly deserves its classic status, but Roach also deserves credit for leading electronic musicians out of their sheltered studios and into an active relationship with the landscape, the wider world, and deep cultural history. The whole genre is stronger and more relevant for his example.” - Stephen Hill, Hearts of Space Radio
“Musically Dreamtime Return richly deserves its classic status, but Roach also deserves credit for leading electronic musicians out of their sheltered studios and into an active relationship with the landscape, the wider world, and deep cultural history. The whole genre is stronger and more relevant for his example.” - Stephen Hill, Hearts of Space Radio
Deep Space Swirls
Steve Roach's 1988 double-disc, inspired by visits to the Australian outback and the Aboriginal concept of "dreamtime," has been hyped as one of the pivotal works of ambient music. You may wonder why: It begins with the generic whooshing you'd expect from a NASA training film, and as it evolves acquires similar sounds typically used by film scorers to connote open planetary vistas. That's ambient music for you: To some, one minute its sweeping sounds evoke a great metaphysical vastness, to others that same material can seem a tired cliché.
Stick with Dreamtime Return, because after its garish opening segment, the music travels less expected pathways, with slow-moving textures luring listeners into evocations of tribal ritual. In Aboriginal mythology, "dreamtime" refers to a state of being in which the past, present, and future are experienced simultaneously. Dreamtime's tales address the earth's origin, and the role of humans in it (the Aboriginal people believe every human event leaves a "record" in the land).
Inspired by these stories, Roach used a combination of synthesizers and ancient instruments, most notably the dumbek drum and the didgeridoo (that two-toned wind instrument native to Australia, played here by David Hudson), to create shape-shifting, constantly evolving atmospheres. Dreamtime Return is among a handful of pioneering works of what's sometimes called "Ethno-Ambient," though its rhythms are more aggressive than most music carrying that label. Moving from solemn, ceremonial beats to unmoored, tempoless explorations, Roach scatters tones and colors into brilliant arrays, and evolves them, ever so slowly, into a majestic long-distance journey. It may only be a simulation of dreamtime, but it's dazzlingly hypnotic all the same.
Long established as a classic, 1988’s Dreamtime Return is now lovingly reissued with careful 24-bit remastering by Steve Roach, and an expanded booklet with previously unseen photos from around the time of the original recording. It looks and sounds excellent. “Towards the Dream” remains one of my favorite compositions by Steve ever, and it makes a great beginning. So familiar now, back then it was a revolutionary blending of Berlin school sequencing with Roach’s now famous primitive elements. His surreal fusion of music of the future and of the past virtually single-handedly invented the tribal ambient genre, or at the very least brought it to the forefront of the music scene. Dreamtime Return also showed Steve’s continuing strength in developing long-form works, as he had previously done on Quiet Music and Structures From Silence. The 31-minute “Looking For Safety” is a beautifully subtle spacious piece that melts into the background of whatever you find yourself doing while you listen. “Through the Strong Eye” is full of deep sounds that echo into infinity, a hint of what would come several years later on The Magnificent Void. And then there’s the wonderful ending, “The Return,” which I now associate with the softly rolling waves at the end of Steve’s Day Out Of Time video. The use of silence is as effective as the sounds. It is the stuff of dreams, as much today as it was 17 years ago. - Phil Derby
The myths and legends of the Australian Aborigines provided the inspiration for this expansive opus that is generally touted as Roach’s first masterpiece. Here it is presented again in 24-bit remaster. If you’ve long wondered about discovering his music but never knew where to start, this is the place – not because it’s the best (although I wouldn’t argue with anyone who claims it is), but because it’s exemplary of much of what would come after – a signpost if you will that points to a number of paths that Roach would ultimately explore in his later work and right up to the present day. The sequenced piece that opens disc one is more in line with his earlier work, calling to mind elements of the Berlin electronic school. From that point the disc moves on to more explorative visions that involve floating ambient soundscapes, mysterious looping synth creations, and all types of ethnic percussion, mixed in varying degrees, often augmented by sampled sounds, electronic woodwinds, violin, and didgeridu. Moods change and shift freely throughout, from more aggressive trance workouts to quietly introspective pieces to evolutionary deep space explorations, all within the general scope of a singular guiding concept. The focus throughout is on the moment, that very instant that unfolds in the present, reaching for the elusive boundaries of imagination.
Disk two begins with the half hour “Looking For Safety”, a sublime and haunting ambient drift piece with a rich, looping melodic figure that reappears intermittently in various forms throughout its duration; in turn it is followed by another similarly styled dream sequence punctuated with dense, mysterious cloudlike structures. The highlight of the second disc is “Red Twilight With The Old Ones”, a cyclical evolution of tension and release, where field recordings of aboriginal songmen are integrated into the fabric of the piece. In all, the two discs present a broad cinematic continuum that moves freely through portals of perception, each presenting its own explorative vision of the overriding concept of dreamtime. This two disc set is available by itself, and also in a deluxe “Dreamtime Box” edition which includes two discs of new material recorded in the same spirit as the original set: Possible Planet and New Life Dreaming (both are reviewed in this issues’ New Releases section). Either way, this set comes highly recommended. – Peter Thelen
We write 1988, Steve Roach just released Dreamtime Return and wrote with this album a whole new chapter in the history of electronic music. Practically in the history of ambient as Dreamtime Return is considered as the first real ambient record. Besides that it was the first real recording in which western music was mixed with aboriginal instruments as the dingeredoo. A culture totally unknown to the western audiences at that time. With these instrument the first steps into ambient where taken and Steve Roach gave his musical carrier a new turn.
Twenty years after the first release of Dreamtime Return the label Project comes with a re-issue of the album which was long sold out and hard to find for collectors. The original album went through a tiny re-mastering and they have given the cover a different (more suitable) colour, but it’s still the same album first released twenty years ago. Steve Roach is a name I’ve heard before, next to him stand people like Klaus Schulze and other masters of the electronic music. Although I’ve never bought or heard an album by his hand.
And now Dreamtime Return is playing in my cd-player. The first thing I noticed was the timelessness of Roach’s ambient. The first time I heard the album, even before I was searching the internet for information about the album, I’ve thought it was a brand new piece. Maybe the digeredoo’s were a bit simple, but the whole album breathed the dreamlike ambience which ambient is know for. I even dare to say it has everything an ambient-artist searches for al these years. You float away on dreams, feel the electronic atmospheres summoned and drift off in a period of peace and serenity. These thoughts were mine before I’ve found out this was a re-release of an album first released in 1988. now my interest for Steve Roach is complete awakened. There aren’t a lot of artist whose work still stand strong next to present day artists twenty years after the first release. Dreamtime Return is and will be the holy grail of ambient. Rating: 7.6 - Godpipo
Having said that, and despite the quite sizable amount of advocates the album did manage to gather around it right from the start, it is not that hard to discern why the critics were confused. „Dreamtime Return“ led the combination of electronic and mechanical instruments to an accesible plateau. It anticipated the symbiosis between progressive, experimental expressions and tribal elements. It used a highly contemporary form of sampling, indulged in the sequencer runs and digital drum derilations of the „Berlin School“ while taking them to new, concise horizon. And finally, it bathed in sweet oceans of harmonies, undulated asthmatically through haunting greyzones and created new templates for future generations of musicians while trying on the most diverse arrangements.
All of this came in the form of a two hour long concept work, based around a view of the world, which seemed to openly contradict the Western model and stemmed from a culture hundreds of thousands of years old and with an intuitive knowledge in danger of being lost. With the deadlines of the press looming and never enough time to get behind the real meaning of a work, the deeper message was probably never easy to formulate.
As with all classics, there are plenty of stories to „Dreamtime Return“ and the most important one is how its creative process, which had already started in 1985, was suddenly sped up when director David Stahl was driving through the desert to Mexico. As the heat was building up, Stahl was meditating on his current project, a movie on the Aboriginal concept of the „Dream Time“. It was during this drive that the radio program changed from middle of the road rock to a most uncommon soundscape, the warm and deep stream that was Steve Roach's „Structures from Silence“. Stahl decided to call him immediately, bringing Roach in contact with a continent which he had long felt a „compellable connection“ with.
The duo arrived in Australia only months later to „endless plateaus, gorges and sandstone escarpments which conceal the sacred and secular sites of times past“ (Roach), documenting their experiences on film („Art of the Dreamtime“) and in music. Roach would later build tracks around Aboriginal chant and invite Robert Rich and other percussionists and instrumentalists into the studio for improvisations and a decided, yet otherworldly rhythmic flow, but the finished record still bares a lot of the spontaneous sensation of being overwhelmed by the land and its people.
So much has been written about the music and yet they still carve out intense associations: The astral voyage of the brooding sequencer flight „Towards the Dream“, the gourd drum polybeats and didjeridu pulses of „Songline“, the melancholic echoes of „Truth in Passing“, the vastitude of „Looking for Safety“, which sounds as though Steve Roach were keeping his ear to the ground for thirty minutes in search of the earth's voice. ”Dreamtime Return“ is a continent itself, full of uncharted territory and filled with places at first alien and longing to be discovered. Just like changing sceneries are considered organic in the world surrounding us, they are no contradictions in this musical cosmos. And even if they were, all polarities melt in the engulfing drones of the closing embrace of „The Return“.
What strangely enough has not yet been mentioned is why the album is just as potent today as it was almost twenty years from now: To me , the explanation is simply: It seems to come from the same spiritual cycle it set out to discover. It is a work of expectation, of anticipation, of hope and of imagination, born in a place where symbols have universal meaning and where seconds are hours and hours are days. It was born in dreamtime itself. -Tobias Fischer