1. The Living Space 14:28
2. Breathing Light 07:06
3. Neomorphic 11:03
4. Shadow Realms 07:49
5. Immerse Indigo 05:54
6. The Perfection of Solitude 16:18
7. Holding Light 09:53
8. Submerged 01:13:04
9. Isolation Station 58:04
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In a masterful expression of subtle, potent ambient-electronic minimalism, Steve Roach’s newest release activates an internal opening of the mythic imagination. The slowly unfolding interweave of zones, drones and atmospheres displays compelling, deeply evocative textural pieces with an interconnected sense of mystery, awe and wonder.
The gently engulfing interplay between the album’s pieces provides contrasts of shadow and light, shimmering beauty and alluring soundscapes stretched into infinity. The revealing of the music unfolds into stately sonic formations of hypnotic weavings, hazy atmospheric swirls and murmuring reverberations. Roach establishes each soundworld through engaging a multitude of techniques and hardware-based instruments with fluidity and grace.
Manifesting from the essential foundational DNA of ambient music, this is an album of elegant, deeply nuanced audio alchemy. The expansive minimalism reveals a shadowy and emotional spaciousness that meditates on the enduring essence and power of sound and our place in the center of it.
Steve Roach is an American pioneer in the evolution of ambient/electronic music, helping shape it into what it is today. Grammy nominated in 2018 and 2019, his career spans over 4 decades drawing from a vast, unique and deeply personal authenticity. His albums are fueled by the momentum of a lifetime dedicated to the soundcurrent. Driven by a passion and unbroken focus, the emotive, soul-stirring depth of his recorded music — along with countless concerts — Roach inspires a growing audience worldwide. His massive catalog of landmark recordings includes Structures from Silence, Quiet Music, Dreamtime Return and Mystic Chords and Sacred Spaces.
The CD contains the first 7 tracks. The digital edition of Zones, Drones & Atmospheres includes additional tracks to extend the immersive experience to nearly three and a half hours.
reviews editor –
A review from obskure
Steve Roach sort une nouvelle fois de sa grotte pour nous ensorceler. Chamane un jour, chamane toujours… Un homme à tifs actif qui ne s’en laisse décidément pas conter. Maître de la galaxie planante depuis quatre décennies, l’Américain impose sa marque en toute simplicité. Une force tranquille qui trace son chemin dans le désert d’Arizona, convoquant les éléments farouches pour faire voyager un public en extase. Mais cette oasis sereine se trouble. En effet, Zones, Drones & Atmospheres est une œuvre contemplative et aride. L’austérité du son renvoie d’ailleurs à des opus plus anciens, certains des nineties. Si les nappes s’entremêlent harmonieusement dans une chorégraphie minimaliste parfaitement orchestrée, les textures générales sont extrêmement lourdes. Le disque navigue entre deux eaux. La vivacité lumineuse de “The living Space” par exemple se heurte aux volutes dark de “Neomorphic”, morceau outré d’électronique spatiale noire (cf. Neptune Towers). Ce parti pris de l’artiste est audacieux et rappelle le glorieux essai du genre d’Eno avec Apollo.
Mais en dehors de cette référence éculée, on perçoit des bribes esthétiques diverses : Stellardrone sur “Breathing Light”, avec sa puissance atmosphérique, ou bien encore le Stalker de Rich/Lustmord sur “Shadow Realms”. Roach dessine ici un ambient profond, dénué de tout tribalisme. Une expérimentation radicale dans sa dimension oppressante, relevée de strates éthérées. Ainsi, “Holding Light” s’affirme comme une pièce classique, rendant hommage à l’univers de Hearts Of Space et au talent onirique de Max Corbacho et Craig Padilla. À noter que la version CD ne comprend que sept titres, “Submerged” et “Isolation Station” étant uniquement disponibles en format digital. Ces deux plages d’une heure de moyenne chacune invitent à l’introspection inquiète. Le ciel s’assombrit, les élans synthétiques bougent imperceptiblement pour revenir vers un centre tellurique macabre ; une odyssée musicale effroyable, poussant toujours plus loin le concept de répétition hypnotique.
Reviews Editor –
From CD Hot List
On Roach’s new solo album Zones, Drones & Atmospheres, he delivers ambient music that hits the sweet spot for me: pleasant but not cloying; contemplative but not faux-mystical; unobtrusive but interesting — and sometimes downright eerie, which is always fun. Interestingly, while the CD version of this album is nicely packed with music, the digital version is even more so — clocking in at a startlingly generous three and a half hours. That version adds the 73-minute-long dark ambient track “Submerged,” and an additional hour-long track (similarly dark and immersive) called “Isolation Station.” -Rick Anderson
reviews editor –
A review from Spain’s Rock Deluxe
Led by the illustrious Steve Roach – not Reich, the minimalist New York composer who wrote Music For 18 Musicians (1978) – we enter the magmatic realm of cosmic ambient, tribal electroacoustic and, of course, that swampy variant and pseudophilosophical called new age. Like other leading names on the West Coast, such as the late Pauline Anna Strom or Joanna Brouk, Roach is especially interesting due to the enormity and high quality of their musical production, with reference records such as Dreamtime Return (1988), result of his travels through the Australian deserts, or for his collaborations with people like Jorge Reyes or Suso Saiz. If we take as a reference the testaments of the genre published a few years ago by the North American label Light In The Attic, the music of this unusual former professional motocross racer born in La Mesa, California, would surely marry better with the Eurocentric scientism of The Microcosm, Visionary Music Of Continental Europe, 1970-1986 (2016) than with the no less naive Yankee neo-jipism of I Am The Center, Private Issue New Age Music In America 1950-1990 (2013). In neither of them does Roach appear.
Zones, Drones & Atmospheres is an album of dark ambient and without concessions, but more than suitable for the catalog of any commercial electronic label –“The Living Space” is pure IDM–, of classical music –the abstraction of “Neomorphic ” is very reminiscent of Ligeti– or of avant-pop –“Shadow Realms” could belong to the sessions by Holger Czukay and David Sylvian–. Of course, also the elegance of Brian Eno from Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks (1983) or the more fluid Manuel Göttsching of the Ash Ra Temple slip through the half-closed cracks of pieces like “Immerse Indigo”. But the autonomous power of Steve Roach’s first album in 2022 – there will probably be more – trumps any aesthetic connection, however plausible. And it is none other than inducing an inner journey in the listener – they can add deep, enveloping, hypnotic, cosmic, epic and, of course, psychedelic – generated from an odyssey of “cloned” sequencers and analog synthesizers –modular Moogs, Oberheim Xpander…– that Roach activates and brings to life from his Timehouse studios in Baja Arizona.
Long-duration cuts, where the shortest is barely less than six minutes –“Immerse Indigo”, already noted–, coexist with others so long that just mentioning it like that sounds like a comical euphemism, such as the appropriately titled “Submerged”, from 73′ 04 ”. The latter, together with “Isolation Station”, another atmospheric drone diplodocus close to an hour long –both only in the digital version–, and the suggestive “The Perfection Of Solitude” belong, with noticeable variations in timing, to the self-published Ellipsis (2021). All of them are now integrated into a transporting but radical album for what it has as a psychic stimulator and little complacent with the usual pseudomystic tics of the genre. Zones, Drones & Atmospheres, immeasurable, mysterious and addictive, is also, if I may express it this way, the antithesis, antidote and anti-everything of what has to do with the life of click & collect or fast-low-easy digital that turns us on so much to almost all of us. But, above all, it is an excellent work that can be enjoyed with no other purpose than its own aesthetic and sensory enjoyment.
Original Spanish review
De la mano del ilustre Steve Roach –que no Reich, el compositor minimalista neoyorquino autor de “Music For 18 Musicians” (1978)– penetramos en el magmático reino del ambient cósmico, de la electroacústica tribal y, cómo no, de esa variante pantanosa y pseudofilosófica llamada new age. Al igual que otros nombres fundamentales de la Costa Oeste, como las ya fallecidas Pauline Anna Strom o Joanna Brouk, Roach resulta especialmente interesante por la enormidad y gran calidad de su producción musical, con discos de referencia como “Dreamtime Return” (1988), resultado de sus viajes por los desiertos australianos, o por sus colaboraciones con gente como Jorge Reyes o Suso Saiz. Si tomásemos como referencia los testamentos del género publicados hace unos años por el sello norteamericano Light In The Attic, la música de este insólito excorredor profesional de motocross nacido en La Mesa, California, casaría seguramente mejor con el cientifismo eurocéntrico de “The Microcosm. Visionary Music Of Continental Europe , 1970-1986” (2016) que con el no menos ingenuo neojipismo yanqui de “I Am The Center. Private Issue New Age Music In America 1950-1990” (2013). En ninguna de las dos aparece Roach.
“Zones, Drones & Atmospheres” es un álbum de ambient oscuro y sin concesiones, pero más que apto para el catálogo de cualquier sello de electrónica comercial –“The Living Space” es puro IDM–, de música clásica –la abstracción de “Neomorphic” recuerda mucho a Ligeti– o de avant-pop –“Shadow Realms” podría pertenecer a las sesiones de Holger Czukay y David Sylvian–. Por supuesto, también la elegancia del Brian Eno de “Apollo. Atmospheres & Soundtracks” (1983) o el Manuel Göttsching de los Ash Ra Temple más fluidos se cuelan por las rendijas entornadas de piezas como “Immerse Indigo”. Pero el poder autónomo del primer álbum de Steve Roach en 2022 –probablemente habrá más– se impone sobre cualquier conexión estética, por plausible que resulte. Y no es otro que inducir en el oyente un viaje interior –pueden añadir profundo, envolvente, hipnótico, cósmico, épico y, por supuesto, psicodélico– generado a partir de una odisea de secuenciadores “clonados” y sintetizadores analógicos –Moogs modulares, Oberheim Xpander…– que Roach activa y da vida desde sus estudios Timehouse, en Baja Arizona.
Cortes de larga duración, donde el más breve apenas baja de seis minutos –“Immerse Indigo”, ya apuntado–, conviven con otros tan extensos que solo mencionarlo así suena a cómico eufemismo, como el apropiadamente titulado “Submerged”, de 73’ 04”. Este último, junto a “Isolation Station”, otro diplodocus de drone atmosférico cercano a la hora de duración –ambos solo en la versión digital–, y el sugerente “The Perfection Of Solitude” pertenecen, con sensibles variaciones en minutaje, al autoeditado “Ellipsis” (2021). Todos ellos se integran ahora en un álbum transportador pero radical por lo que tiene de estimulador psíquico y de poco complaciente con los consabidos tics seudomísticos del género. “Zones, Drones & Atmospheres”, inconmensurable, misterioso y adictivo, es también, si se me permite expresarlo de esta manera, antítesis, antídoto y antitodo de aquello que tiene que ver con la vida del click & collect o del fast-low-easy digital que tanto nos prende a casi todos. Pero, por encima de todo, se trata de un excelente trabajo disfrutable sin más propósito que el propio goce estético y sensorial.
Reviews Editor –
From Darkroom Magazine
It is always a recurring pleasure to listen to a new effort by Steve Roach, now consolidated and tireless pioneer of ambient / electro, who over the years has earned a host of loyal fans, but above all has also been recognized by that more unattainable mainstream, which a once in a while he felt compelled to bow to the evidence, naming the productive American artist to two Grammy Awards in 2018 and 2019. Roach’s name is synonymous with many things, that every new release (often even one every three or four months, including collaborations and more) reminds an increasingly convinced public how much its caliber is now at the level of the great sacred monsters, all descended from legacies such as those of the Popol Vuh and successors. And another great sign of Roach’s winning formula is the decades-long collaboration with Projekt, a point of reference for anyone who loves certain sounds, a bastion of artistic quality that has never betrayed expectations. This new work is no exception.
The Arizona composer releases yet another great album, a bit of a summa of his course, where all his best influences are enclosed a bit. From minimal to some new age hints (“The Living Space” or “The Perfection Of Solitude”, placed not by chance in openings and closings), up to the ambient-drone based on meditative sound waves, transcendental alchemy of which the fans do not they can do without. Music to meditate, to dream, to break down the barriers of reality, and to awaken in states of “over-conscious” never experienced. Roach’s music can be described for days, as well as with just a few words. Its formula is an experience that must be lived in first person only. If we then consider that, in addition to the physical CD in question, Roach also offers two other tracks in addition in the digital version (the very long “Submerged” and “Isolation Station”, classic immersions in the artist’s beloved sound), the invitation the purchase is mandatory, especially for those who perhaps approach the American musician for the first time, because in his 3 and a half hours total (which include some already known tracks, including the entire release for Bandcamp “Ellipsis” subscribers only) contains an exhaustive combination of the best of his career. -Max Firinu
È sempre un ricorrente piacere ascoltare una nuova fatica di Steve Roach, ormai consolidato e instancabile pioniere dell’ambient/electro, che negli anni si è meritato una schiera di fedelissimi fan, ma soprattutto è stato anche riconosciuto da quel mainstream più inarrivabile, che una volta tanto si è sentito in dovere di piegarsi all’evidenza, nominando il produttivo artista statunitense a ben due Grammy Award nel 2018 e 2019. Il nome di Roach è sinonimo di molte cose, che ogni nuova uscita (spesso addirittura una ogni tre o quattro mesi, tra collaborazioni e altro) ricorda ad un pubblico sempre più convinto quanto la sua caratura sia ormai ai livelli dei grandi mostri sacri, tutti discesi da lasciti come quelli dei Popol Vuh e successori. E un altro grande segno della vincente formula di Roach è la pluridecennale collaborazione con la Projekt, punto di riferimento per chiunque ami talune sonorità, baluardo di qualità artistica che mai ha tradito le aspettative. Questo nuovo lavoro non è appunto da meno.
Il compositore dell’Arizona rilascia l’ennesimo grande album, un po’ una summa del suo corso, dove si racchiudono un po’ tutte le sue influenze migliori. Dal minimal a qualche accenno new age (“The Living Space” o “The Perfection Of Solitude”, poste non a caso in aperture e chiusura), fino all’ambient-drone basato su meditative onde sonore, alchimia trascendentale di cui i fan non possono fare a meno. Musica per meditare, per sognare, per infrangere le barriere della realtà, e risvegliarsi in stati di “sovra-conscio” mai sperimentati. La musica di Roach può essere descritta per giorni, come anche solo con poche parole. La sua formula è un’esperienza che va esclusivamente vissuta in prima persona. Se poi si considera che, oltre il CD fisico in questione, Roach propone anche due altri brani in aggiunta nella versione digitale (i lunghissimi “Submerged” e “Isolation Station”, classiche immersioni nel sound tanto caro dell’artista), l’invito all’acquisto è obbligatorio, soprattutto per chi magari si avvicina al musicista americano per la prima volta, perché nelle sue 3 ore e mezza totali (che includono qualche traccia già nota, compresa l’intera release per soli sottoscrittori Bandcamp “Ellipsis”) si racchiude un esaustivo connubio del meglio della sua carriera. -Max Firinu
Reviews Editor –
For me this album perfectly evokes the liminal zones of primal creative possibility: waking from a dream, full of inspiration; or seeing visions of a possible future shifting in the shadows at twilight. What a lovely gift, to offer this beauty to all of us to brighten a dark hour. -Dave Aftandilian
Reviews Editor –
From Synth & Sequences
“Just let ourselves be absorbed by the beauties of this album for who needs to escape”
Fizzing balls bounce around to initiate The Living Space. The movement of these balls is like the equivalent of an overflow of particles pouring into a magnetic field. The echo of their shocks amplifies the random movement of these balls with hybrid tones and of which the mass forms a rhythm more engaging for the pleasure of the ears than for the feet. Still, it remains very celestial. Like stars shining in a heaven mixed by maelstrom of multi colored layers. Synth waves start to swarm in the background, whereas the presence of seraphic voices belongs more to the power of the imagination than to reality… Although I cannot deny their presence, especially towards the finale. The marbles clump together in a pattern that has become sequenced as this wall of waves moves as slowly as a drifting musical vessel, realistic tones included. The starry balls become ever so slightly quieter. The backstage becomes the frontstage, and vice versa. Our ears are submerged by the migration and multiplication of the synth layers whose bluish lamentations curl up like improbable couples dancing their ethereal waltzes. Ah that the universe of Steve Roach astound. The musician has become a master in the art of painting his ambient movements with both rhythmic and atmospheric colors, thus moving away from the impression that floating music is redundant. In this first long structure that initiates his new album Zones, Drones & Atmospheres, he creates a melodic texture with the interlacing of multiple balls to make us plunge into a state of hypnosis sucked by the migration of this floating phase. Where the membrane of the synth layers is oiled with a steel blue color, while the balls make a last appearance under the humming of astral goddesses and this strange noise, it sounds like a cuicui, which calls our attention even more.
Interested, aroused curiosity are the beginnings of the art of Steve Roach’s atmospheric music much more than his addiction to immerse us in long meditative phases. What used to be the case is not anymore. Since his meeting with Robert Logan, the albums Biosonic and Second Nature in 2016, the synthesist from La Mesa, California, has expanded his tonal palette for the setting of his atmospheres. And he rightly shares it in his new album on the American label Projekt Records. Certainly and as its title indicates it quite well, Zones, Drones & Atmospheres plunges us in a zone of drones and atmospheres where the dark ambient style is the main asset of this album. A bit like Painting in the Dark where the roots of Neomorphic belong, but especially Fade To Grey and its symphony for drones and buzzing movements. This new album is made up of 7 musical tableaux that show his great knowledge of the meditative spheres. The CD, as well as the downloadable album, comes with two long bonus tracks, offering more than 183 minutes of music with long, buzzing murmurs in our cerebral intimacy where friend Steve is a master of playing with colors and shapes. Let’s take Breathing Light and its arabesques that stretch their points, flattening their curves to reach these floating embraces while radiating other tonal colors. After the Neomorphic’s eternal fall of sounds, Shadow Realms proposes a chant of drones which unravel in banks of sound mist. Layers with an orchestral texture give a second tint to this dark ambient movement. The breaths are hybrid with horn tones, like droning whispers, which act as vectors to reach a form of spiritual serenity. Immerse Indigo is heavier with a linear sound mass from which barely less dark filaments emerge, nuancing its immense atmospheric scope. Those who prefer an ambient music animated by sequences, Steve Roach thought of you with The Living Space and especially with the wonderful The Perfection of Solitude. This title evolves on more than 16 minutes brings us back to the ambient structures of The Skeleton Keys, as to the analog period of the American synthesist. The movement is articulated around a palette of keys sequenced in a rubbery spectrum where the balls bounce, rise and fall with an organic dust of tied to them. And it all unfolds as if in a dream with this compact haze cushioning the shock of the bounces, sculpting a haunting rhythmic texture. The colors of the winds add an intriguing vision to this rhythm that gets sucked in by these same winds after the 10th minute. Holding Light ends Zones, Drones & Atmospheres as in the good old days when Steve created a symphony from a breeze that moves by its inflections, a bit as to catch its breath. The phenomenon is exploited on a larger scale on Submerged whose nuances in the drones are conducive to these contrasts of light and shadow that draw us into a state of sleepy hypnosis. And with 73 minutes, Submerged, which reminds me of the unreleased material in the 3CD edition of Structures from Silence, has time to put us to sleep. More cavernous and vibrating with its whispers along the smooth walls of its huge tonal cave, Isolation Station also has these virtues, except that its subtle changing panorama makes it a little more exciting to listen to.
Of course there are lengths! But isn’t that precisely what makes Steve Roach’s music so beautiful? Hypnotic, magnetizing and propelled by these barely perceptible impulses, we hear the phases evolved by sequences that leave a tiny opening to modify the texture, the forms and its colors. This is precisely where Steve Roach catches our interest. But that’s been known for a long time. Let’s just let ourselves be absorbed by the beauties of this Zones, Drones & Atmospheres. A beautiful album for who needs to escape… Rating: 4/5 -Sylvain Lupari
Reviews Editor –
Since the early 80s, Steve Roach has been releasing powerful ambient chronicles of the imagination, forward-looking minimalist music like no other before it, although his music has served as guidance and inspiration for many who came after. Roach’s first release of 2022 offers a wellspring of expressive soundscapes that encompass all of what the title bluntly suggests: zones of alluring beauty and nuanced shades of light and darkness; drones that offer a persuasive vision that engulfs the listener completely; and atmospheres that shimmer and weave, swirling in hazy heady textures and opening out into the vast reaches of the cosmos.
Those familiar with his previous ambient works, both short and long form pieces, might not be too surprised by what’s on offer here, given that it all fits into Roach’s expected and expansive trajectory — dreamy sounds that meet the mysterious and cavernous reverberations of space that fit within no existing genre of music other than to say that its essence is explorative and, by virtue of its presentation, hypnotic. The compact disc version contains seven evocative and mystical tracks of varying length, from the near-fifteen minute opener “The Living Space,” where the dark sky breathes freely as stars curiously light up the heavens with beautiful sonic artifacts, to the dense atmospheres and dark growling textures of “Immerse Indigo,” the disc’s shortest track at six minutes. With “The Perfection of Solitude” one will hear deep electronic pulses across a gentle field of shaded atmospherics, while “Neomorphic” takes the listener on a guided journey through the depths of space, with subtle flashes of ancient tonal color driving the abstraction forward.
Downloaders will get a couple extra cuts that are not featured on the CD, the 73-minute “Submerged” and the near-hour-long “Isolation Station”; both are long-form pieces that immerse the listener in slow waves and shimmering cascades, meditations that are all but guaranteed to send one down the eternal spiral of slumber and beyond. -Peter Thelen
Reviews Editor –
From Journeys to the Infinite
Zones, Drones & Atmospheres is an extensive opus that stretches the audience’s ability to recalibrate sensitivity to time and space. Steve Roach has demonstrated, once again, his mastery of sonic persuasion by engaging our attention in deep, shifting states refracted into a glittering web of textural harmonies and toned-down sequences. The nearly 3.5 hour album proposes a musical descending into the core of our being, inward diving unveiling the transcendent power of solitude.
This new immersive recording interweaves dark octaves and luminous resonances to express the paradoxical nature of the unfathomable mystery within us. A feeling of time slowing to an almost stop arises while listening piece by piece, culminating with the final two long tracks where the music sounds timeless and unearthly but strangely intimate. The flow of sensations, emotions, thoughts are absorbed in soundwaves washing onto and dissolving in the invisible shore of awareness. In times of turbulence, an occasional detaching from the social context can be healthy and rewarding. Zones, Drones & Atmospheres encourages inward-focused confinement that, pursued by choice, proves to be insightful and restorative. -Marius-Christian Burcea