The Gone Place
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What Remains is a dynamic confluence of sonic worlds — four interconnected passages that venture from floating sequencer woven elegant futurism, to yearning and mysterious tribal ambient, to conclude with the heart-wrenching, pure-atmospherics of the title track. This sonic odyssey reveals a masterful culmination of the different electronic musics Roach has developed and explored over the last forty years.
Deep emotion, soulful longing and vast interweaves of sonic epiphanies of grace and beauty are immersed and nourished in a balance of darkness and light. The four distinct — yet allied — movements progress as one stylist space opens to the next, each emerging from the resonance of the previous piece.
What Remains is a powerful meditation upon Steve’s journey of one. “As I grow deeper into time,” Steve reflects, “my devotion to deeply engaging in this creative life progressively increases the potency to burn away that which is no longer needed. The shedding of old skins, patterns and perceptions have to be examined. What remains infuses the art with this essence. This transcendental state inherently evolves as one is tempered through the priorities of time. There are no boundaries around what I do. I venture to the place I feel in my imagination or discover while creating the music; it is how it wants to unfold. I desire to keep pushing further and deeper into places that are connected to what I’ve done while also pushing me into new worlds to explore. As an artist, I use these instruments with the agility to move between a lot of dynamic soundworlds. Like an actor, I inhabit different roles and disappear into them. That creative experience embodies all these incredible emotional, spiritual and psychological spaces as a daily meditation upon what remains vital.”
Sean Williams, New York Times best-selling author: “The final track, ‘What Remains’ is a great pay-off to what feels like a quartet of distinct answers to the question ‘What Remains?’ While the title doesn’t have a question mark, it’s easy to feel it in the music. Everything remains, and nothing. Consonance, and dissonance. At times driving, relentless, urgent, and at others: fractures, and healing. This closing track has a deep sense of lamentation and acceptance, of rolling time and final breaths, bringing the endless moment around full circle. This is classic Steve, really, my favourite kind of his music, with heavy, repeating chords holding court over bottomless depths of nuance. How he manages such perfect clarity with such dense reverberance, I don’t know — but I feel as though every momentary sound is caught and held forever, right up to the last tiny tintinnabulation.”
A longstanding leader in contemporary electronic music, composer and multi-instrumentalist Steve Roach draws on the beauty and power of the Earth’s landscapes to create lush, meditative soundscapes. Throughout his decades-long career, he’s explored styles ranging from tribal rhythms to deep space music, and he’s proven to be an enormous influence on several generations of ambient artists, trance producers, and new age/world music fusionists.
Grammy nominated in 2018 and 2019 consecutively, his career spans four decades and nearly 150 releases. His massive catalog of landmark recordings includes 1984’s Structures from Silence, 1988’s Dreamtime Return and 2003’s Mystic Chords & Sacred Spaces (parts 1-4). He has maintained an impossibly prolific work rate throughout his career resulting in countless hours of truly sublime, otherworldly music. From the expansive, time-suspending spaces reflecting his spiritual home in Arizona to the fire breathing, sequencer-driven rhythmic-tribal expressions woven from all things electric and organic, this innovative world of sound has been nourished by years of transcendent concerts worldwide.
Reviews Editor –
From Prog Censor
Pope of the space environment, co-religionist of Robert Rich (with whom he collaborated) and Jonn Serrie, he can sometimes seem soothing, even soporific, or on the contrary offer melodic landscapes in nuances conducive to meditation and the daydream construction, deep soul alchemical revelations. Here we think mainly of his wonderful Quiet Music whose full version includes three hours of cosmic music. “Current of Compassion” plunges us throughout its 26-minute span in a nebula that could evoke Klaus Schulze and his “Floating” sequences. The present album features a summary of what Steve has explored over the last 40 years.
Four separate beaches, but emotionally, and all in finesse, connected to each other. We meet disturbing ambiences cousins of the dark ambient in “Prometheus Passage” in waves of cathedral resonations. Immersive yet, “The Gone Place” invites direct comparison with “The Green Place,” an integral and indispensable part of “Quiet Music,” adding a frank tribal rhythm to it. Felt rhythm paired with an obsessive bass woven from some shady electronic noises. The fourth beach, eponymous, meets once again the enchanting trips of Quiet Music. Inspiration close to the requiem, lamentation and acceptance of the last breaths leading to the infinite moment shaped in perfect circularity, according to the images evoked by Sean Williams of the New York Times. A great Steve Roach album if any! -Clavius Reticulus
Reviews Editor –
From Darkroom Magazine
After forty years of career and about 230 publications, the Californian dean of the environment no longer needs any introduction, least of all for this umpteenth chapter of his lasting and successful partnership with Sam Rosenthal’s Projekt. The four long tracks of What Remains, published in an essential digipak, can in fact be considered a sort of sum of the four decades in which the American composer has explored far and wide the paths of ambient music, from cosmic drifts to the more tribal ones, often literally one step away from a certain new age, but always with a higher concreteness.
At the opening, the twenty-six minutes of “Currents Of Compassion” guide us towards the infinity of the Cosmos through placid and melodious synths (for the album, Roach used analog and digital instruments, using modular equipment and even the ocarina), on the supply of glitches and rhythmic elements in slow and constant increasing intensity, while “Prometheus Passage”, the shortest track of the four with its “only” seven minutes, winds through a more mysterious and impenetrable ambient blanket, from which drones emerge radiant towards the end.
The more than twenty-one minutes of “The Gone Place”, among more accomplished rhythms in a tribal ambient perspective, offer a range of exquisite filmic-cut audio nuances, emphasizing once more how you work at the highest levels in terms of production when on the pitch. Steve, who closes for his part with the refined minimalisms of the luminous ambient of the title track, a final quarter of an hour which confirms how the album in question can over time come to deserve a place among those to be recommended in a vast discography like that of the American mastermind, as extremely representative of his artistic prerogatives. For Roach this is already the ninth long-distance release of 2022, but as long as the level of inspiration is that of What Remains, all this prolificacy is welcome. -Roberto Alessandro Filippozzi
Reviews Editor –
From Synth & Sequences
Our friend Steve does it again with a majestic album that travels all around of his musical imprints.
The music comes from afar! A bit like being shy at the mere idea of its bewitching power. A buzzing sound around which oscillating loops are forged, barely jerky, camouflaging electronic percussions that animate “Currents of Compassion” with its various currents of sleep-inducing rhythm. There is this suite of discrete arpeggios (3 or 4) that roll in loops, these percussions and these organic yowlings that structure a hypnotic rhythm while the synth throws these clouds of mystical mist and a short line of evasive melody that gnaws at our senses. With a soporific softness, the rhythm of “Currents of Compassion” goes up and down, as on an escalator with only two steps, in minimalist temporal loops. Architect of sounds and speaker of atypical electronic masses, Steve Roach multiplies the contacts with his knowledge by elaborating a long structure to which he grafts sounds, elements of ambient rhythm and harmonies, like this electrostatic wire which rolls in loop while irradiating the ambiences of its spectral presence, in a symphony pushed by an eloquent game of percussions and magnetizing organic percussive effects. The power of the modular! Steve Roach manipulates it since Skeleton Keys in 2015 and elaborates it with all his art in this grandiose track where you can sleep, dream with your eyes open or simply listen to the unfolding of 26 minutes of pure pleasure. Savorously hypnotic…
Accustomed as we are to Steve Roach’s great works, it is always with astonishment that we hear the American musician surpass himself with each new album. What Remains doesn’t shake anything up though! This latest album from Roach offers nothing less than a musical look back at his amazing career with 4 long musical structures that link his various influences. “Currents of Compassion” could have been a Klaus Schulze track so much its hypnotic approach flirts with the Berlin School of this great musician who died recently. If it’s not an homage, it sounds just like it! The album has a tribal track that flirts with the essences of both Australian and African peoples in a long structure that unites the two poles. And there is of course one of those tracks that go back in time, as a superb track of dark ambiences. A sound and music cocktail to spend 70 minutes of pure happiness!
If you’ve seen Ridley Scott’s Promotheus, it’s easy to make a possible connection between the atmospheres that flirt with darkness on “Prometheus Passage.” It’s a very dark track that’s filled with borborygmatic language where the deeper you go, the more you hear those plaintive, slightly apocalyptic synth tunes filling your ears with a slight chthonian enchantment. Dark Ambient more than realistic and well beyond the black masses of the Immersion series! These tenebrous lamentations occupy the scene of the impressive “The Gone Place” which brings us back to the wonderful era of Australian tribal rhythms. This very long track is what will become a staple in the hundreds of tracks of the American composer. The roaring bass and the texture of the electronic percussions increase a cadence that resonates like a frantic heartbeat between the multiple organic effects and keyboard riffs, structuring an ambient trance that fills with singing breezes, oxygen-free breaths and vocal effects from a synth that is generous with its sonic offerings all as enchanting as they are intriguing. Little by little, the ambiences of the Australian deserts swap for those of a sonorous jungle which makes hear its organic effects and its pagan airs under the greedy effect of a rhythm which ennobles its heaviness in sumptuous bewitching layers when we enter the second half of “The Gone Place.” It’s a little after the 12th minute moreover that a fusion between the Austral and African universes takes shape under more spectral breaths and synth harmonies, reminding above all the context in which Steve Roach likes to work. A superb track that quietly decreases its pace, a bit like this hypnotist trying to draw us out of his hypnosis. Excellent, “The Gone Place” is worth the purchase of What Remains!
Do you remember those dark whispers, those background waves that rocked us to our dreams in the title track of Structures from Silence? Or that track lost in Steve’s vaults on Emotions Revealed? Our friend Steve does it again with a majestic 15 minutes where “What Remains” will seduce even Morpheus. There is nothing more to write about the way this other little masterpiece of Steve Roach concludes, which makes me totally addicted to his emotions. Here, and like in many of his albums. The last one of this magnitude is undoubtedly the wonderful Tomorrow. -Sylvain Lupari (rating: 5/5)
Reviews Editor –
The creative well of Steve Roach never goes dry — it just keeps giving and giving, with close to 200 releases to his credit since the early 80s, and he still has the time to nurture other like minded musicians following a similar path forward, as well as producing live events such as Soundquest Fest. His is truly a life of dedication to a type of explorative music that remains well outside the popular realm, yet for the listeners who understand and appreciate it, there are no substitutes.
What Remains, released August of 2022, exists as something of a calling card for the array of electronic-based minimalist styles he has been bringing to life in recent years, and would likely serve as an excellent entry point into his vast catalog for the uninitiated. The album consists of four lengthy tracks that open the doors into different aspects of Roach’s mysterious and elegant soundworlds, from gentle floating ambient to sequencer-driven shimmering panoramas, and mystical interwoven textural fields to powerful dreamy tribal explorations, quite often all existing at the same moment in varying degrees.
The set opens with “Currents of Compassion,” a 26-minute epic that begins with a drifting space meditation built on various Berlin-style sequenced undercurrents delivered concurrently. As the piece moves forward in time, it morphs and reforms itself repeatedly, though the listener may well not even notice the dramatic changes in progress, the evolution from one minute to the next is subtle and fluid. By the fifteen minute mark the tribal and sequenced aspects have faded well into the background with big colorful textural swells now dominating.
“Prometheus Passage” at a mere seven minutes builds on the textural aspects, adding bold washes of deep colors to the mix as it proceeds, merging seamlessly with “The Gone Place” where the percussive sounds return and blend with all that was built in the previous piece for the duration of an album side. The set closes with the fifteen minute title track, a pure wealth of majestic floating bliss without a lot of busy sequences, warm sounds that extend seemingly indefinitely into space without any apologies, a realm of sheer beauty. What Remains may be a statement, or it may be a question, or it may be a little bit of both. -Peter Thelen
Reviews Editor –
From Star’s End
Steve Roach beckons with the promise of fantastic escape. A meditation on fugitive beauty his What Remains (70’22”) glows with an air of cosmic yearning. Subtlety has always been one of Roach’s strengths, and the four tracks here are so well-stated and precise that their complexity seems to come quite easily.
This music, while made with machines, has been made for humans. Succinct and eminently re-playable What Remains drifts from moods of exuberance and wonder, to nocturnal befogged views and synth soft poetic power. Breathing his tetrad of realizations into our imagination, one by one Roach engulfs the listener in a sonorous minor-key semblance of ambience.
Shifting to a spectral plane handsome and imposing drones give way to a simmering groove. As electronic percussion moves under, over and through adjacent sounds the mind may sense a polyrhythmic texture. Only hinting at its ethno-origins this energy feels forged deep beneath some indefinite surface.
Slightly cloudy, reverberant synthesizer chords give way to echoing sequencer patterns. As the resulting restless energy, space and time are strikingly transformed, Roach is found to be pulling from different emotional poles. In the gathering gloom a collage of sounds – free-floating, rounded metal edged, linked within cavernous reverb – emerge from roiling digital effects. The slow burning closing piece erases all bearings, leading us back into the silent now.
Throughout What Remains Roach’s quiet compositions of connection and reflection gently articulate an intense well of feelings behind even the simplest gesture. United by the sense of discovery which may be felt by informed listeners he continues to re-imagine the potential of his music. Yet, no matter how far it is pushed, or how hard it is played, it never forgets the abiding creative energy that first put it into motion. -Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 4 August 2022