Archive for the ‘Artists’ Category
For several months before actually committing the title track “Structures from Silence” to tape, I would live with the music throughout my daily activities. Often I would sleep and wake with the music playing (since it is stored in the computer memory, it can play indefinitely). This gave me the opportunity to fine tune the piece to a very sublime level. At the time I did not listen to any other music. I also spent much time in silence, a beautiful place. Feeling the music move through that space was vital in its development . . . For me the essence of this music is what is felt when it ends, a returning to the silence. Steve Roach, 1984The return to vinyl
Thirty-three years after its release, Structures From Silence returns to its vinyl origins. Steve Roach talks with Ambient Music Guide’s Mike G about the sublimely meditative album’s creation and reflects on this bona fide ambient classic.
With his distinctive mélange of analog and digital synthesizers, acoustic instrumentation and imaginative soundscapes, American composer Steve Roach is a giant in modern ambient music and one of the most respected electronic musicians in the world. Active since the late 1970s, Roach has an enormous discography of solo albums, collaborations and compilations; his range of styles and influence is vast.
1984’s Structures From Silence marked a move away from the sequencer-driven, kinetic Berlin-school trance of his earliest releases toward an album-length foray into beatless ambience. There are just three pieces – all extraordinarily delicate. The slow-motion melodic strains of the 30-minute title track, in particular, breathe with exquisite gentleness.
Roach’s music is part of a wider progressive, electronic-ambient movement that rose concurrently with the new age scene on America’s West Coast during the 1970s and 80s. Initially the pathway to the audience was neither through an artist nor a record label, but a radio show: Music From The Hearts Of Space. This groundbreaking public radio program was founded in 1973 in San Francisco by sound designer, producer and former architect Stephen Hill and the late Anna Turner. In 1983 it went national and is still on the air today. Although it was not the only radio show of its type, its influence and importance cannot be overstated – both its role in the development of American-based electronic artists and the part it played in bringing ambient styles to a wider audience.
By the 1980s this California-based scene was rich with adventurous musicians giving birth to an extraordinary new direction in music. It was within this creative ferment that Structures From Silence was birthed. Roach says, “That time was exciting. All that mattered to me was living inside this soundworld I was discovering and wanting to share with those who were open to it. I was creating from a purely instinctual place; I had no concern of genres or boundaries.”
Structures-era Timeroom Photos by Thomas RonkinOn the air
Radio was the medium of the day and was crucial to the album’s initial success in America. Structures was originally a self-released cassette when it caught Stephen Hill’s attention. He heard the album through his friendship with Michael Stearns and Kevin Braheny, two accomplished West Coast ambient composers who were living near Roach in L.A. at the time and helped him with mastering and spatial enhancements on the album.
“I remember right after it was released in 1984,” Roach says. “Stephen came to my tiny bungalow in L.A. near the MGM film studios – to see what this guy was all about. Those little gingerbread-looking houses were originally built in the 1940s for the workers at MGM a few blocks away. There was a vibrant beehive feeling all around with fellow visual artists, film and music people. My early albums from Now to Empetus were all created in that Timeroom (Roach’s official name for his studio) or perhaps better described as the Timewomb.”
Hill describes the meeting, “I vividly remember visiting him in that bungalow in Culver City, where he was living a monk-like existence. It was a stucco motel-looking place. The main room had been turned into an early Timeroom, with all his equipment set up and purring out fat analog waveforms 24/7. I don’t recall seeing a bed – he was probably sleeping in the studio – but there were two folding wooden chairs so I sat down and he offered me a glass of water. We had everything in common artistically, and we talked for hours.”
Roach laughs on hearing this, “Well if I slept, it was standing up or sitting at the Oberheim. Pretty much the same as now.”
From that encounter, big things grew. “The music was perfect for Hearts of Space,” says Hill, “and we used it on the national radio program immediately. The track ‘Quiet Friend’ became a kind of closing theme song for a while. This was before we started HOS Records, so I recommended he contact Ethan Edgecombe of Fortuna distribution who was building his own label. Ethan put it out right away on vinyl and cassette. That release on Fortuna helped Steve establish himself as an electronic artist to pay attention to. His raw talent and awesome work ethic did the rest.”#10 best album of the 80s! “Steve Roach’s Structures From Silence remains one of the most important ambient albums ever crafted… its enduring influence has been unmistakably visible in the three decades since its release. It has never been more relevant.”
– FACT MagazineBreathing the deep
The pieces on Structures From Silence evolved outside of the direct influence of the 1980s time zone in which it was created.
“My life at that time was purely focussed on drawing out an inner voice that had been building over many years: a feeling born from my immersion in the quiet spaces of the desert environment. My connection to the profound atmosphere of the desert areas of Southern California – Joshua Tree, Anza-Borrego, Death Valley, the Mojave Desert – was essential. I finally had my hands on the tools with which I could channel this feeling, this expansive atmosphere and blooming inner awareness. I was uncovering and discovering a palpable sense of stillness emanating from a soundcurrent of ‘silence.’”
One of the album’s extraordinary qualities is the sense of natural breath in the music, an organic quality not easily realized with synthesizers. These diaphanous chords and suspended harmonics would become the DNA of Roach’s music as he sought to release his machines from their mechanical moorings.
He explains, “I wasn’t hearing this quality in electronic music at that time. With an acoustic instrument you have to be 100% there to make a sound. Traditional instruments draw from the physical body’s interaction. With synthesizers emerging in the 80s, it was clear that you could almost stop breathing, lose the body connection, sit disconnected in a chair, and still manage to make sounds. This realization was a big piece of my entire waking and sleeping focus. I worked to deepen and nourish the connection to the essence of sound, body, mind and breath awareness when creating with synths. This was directly translated into Structures From Silence – conscious breathing, the sigh and the expansion of this place in-between. Creating from within this present moment, and playing that state through the analog warmth of the Oberheim OB8 was a sacrament of sound. The intention was direct and pure.”
The Oberheim OB8 synthesizer – the source of the resonate voice of the title track – had recently been designed and built in nearby Santa Monica, California. The new synth could play up to eight notes at once, making it the gold standard for polyphonic analog synths in the early 1980s. By his own admission Roach became utterly obsessed with owning one. Priced well beyond what the young sonic aspirant could afford from the wages of working at a local record store, he eventually secured the instrument with a very high interest loan. This consequential move would prove to have a long lasting impact in his life’s work.
The OB8 remains in regular use in his studio today. “You can buy a software version of this instrument now, but it’s like comparing a Formica-countertop laminate and a rich exotic wood. You can’t match the original in terms of texture, warmth and emotional impact, not to mention the fact that it’s a beautiful hardware instrument I feel drawn to today, in the same way as in 1983.”“Structures From Silence is like riding the perfect wave in slow motion… as if sculpting liquid, Roach carefully shapes his sounds into a stately crescendo for an eternal dawn.”
– John Diliberto, Echoes RadioThe listeners speak
Structures From Silence is the album that brought Roach’s work to a global audience of listeners, radio broadcasters, fellow composers, music fans and deep listeners alike. The album has been praised over the years by magazines, fanzines, therapists, Yoga practitioners, and medical MDs; it continues to appear in best of polls, often topping current lists of all-time ambient albums. It struck a chord with a diverse cross-cultural audience from varied backgrounds. The epiphanies of Roach’s formative years of inspiration drawn from the desert and nature’s dreamtime found its way indelibly into his work and his unique personal voice. The stories continue to come in from around the world on how the album breathes life with original and new listeners.
In 2014 the Quiet Friends tribute was released with sixteen electronic artists creating Structures-inspired pieces in honor of the album and timed to the remastered 30th Anniversary 3-CD re-issue.Top-40 Best Ambient Albums of All Time “Contemplative bliss, full of purring drones and high notes that shimmer and fade. Like a desert mirage, these structures hover forever at the horizon, an oasis from the din surrounding it.”
– Pitchfork.comThen and now
When asked how he sees the album today in 2017, Roach reflects, “It’s like looking at a picture of home from years past – one of comfort and peace, warmth and safety. The emotional and personal resonance of the pieces remains connected to my core and part of an uninterrupted continuum from that point to now.”
This limited vinyl edition has been remastered at high-definition 24bit – 96kHz and sourced from the master analog reel-to-reel tapes, highlighting all the subtle detail and harmonic content always present in the studio recording but not fully realized in the original vinyl release.
As Echoes radio producer John Diliberto says, “I think the more important aspect is not when I first heard it, but how resonant and undated it sounds 33 years later.”
Whether you were there in the 80s or discovered the album later, Structures From Silence continues to resonate – across time, cultures, and musical genres. In creating the album, Roach infused the music with yearning emotions and a powerful sense of stillness. Like timeless art from any genre, a rarified expression of humanity is present in this work. That, perhaps, is the key to the enduring appeal of Structures From Silence.
Friday September 29th – sale has ended, prices returned to normal
Saturn Return is back in print in an edition of 115 copies, and free at Bandcamp
Saturn Return, Unto Ashes’ second album (from 2001), has been out-of-print for a while. I recently found 115 more copies of the booklet and disc in the storage space, so I had them packaged for this final limited edition release. For a few days, the CD is on sale for $10, and the download is name-your-price at Bandcamp.
This is a wonderful album, confirming Unto Ashes’ unique hermetic apocalyptic folk / darkwave sound.
Get yours today!
New video at YouTube
Cinematic is now in stores and all digital outlets
Purchase the CD for $14 from Projekt
Cinematic’s nearly fifty minutes of melodic mesmerizing electronic music is shimmeringly sweeping and emotionally engaging. The eight song collection remixes and blends previously unreleased material (from 1998 through 2003) created as soundtracks for video, documentary film and multimedia. The eight song collection of synth and guitar-based melodic electronic/ambient music guides the listener through diverse, cinematic perspectives. The expansive rhythmic sequencer-based sections intersperse with ambient zones and soaring electric guitar textures. These are soundscapes created to complement a story or an event, yet still possess their own self-containing inner life.
Leaving the vampires, zombies and murder ballads behind, Aurelio Voltaire presents a heart-wrenching collection of songs about love gained and love lost. His 11th studio album (and first for Projekt in a decade) resulted from a tumultuous three-month relationship; in between his hectic touring schedule Voltaire found himself writing heart-wrenching songs brimming with anguish, regret and yearning. With a reputation for macabre, tongue-in-cheek songs, every once in a while someone comes along and breaks his heart, and the result is an album of genre-defying musical storytelling. Often sarcastic, sometimes serious, always uniquely… Voltaire.Aurelio Voltaire is on Tour with Bella Morte
Voltaire has copies of his new baby, Heart-Shaped Wound, for the remaining dates of the tour. We worked things out and had the pressing plant next day copies to Sam in Portland/ 9 more shows with Bella Morte, and then Dragoncon! 8/20- Seattle, WA @ El Corazon 8/21- Boise, ID @ Liquid Boise 8/23- San Francisco, CA @ Elbo Room 8/24- Los Angeles, CA @ Union 8/25- Las Vegas, NV @ Beauty Bar 8/26- Mesa, AZ @ Club Red 8/27- Albquerque, NM @ Launchpad 8/29- Austin, TX @ Elysium 8/30- New Orleans, LA @ The Goat 8/31-9/4 – Voltaire at Dragoncon, Atlanta, GA 9/8 NEW YORK CITY@ STIMULATE We created a Spotify Playlist with songs from both artists for your enjoyment
Voltaire’s 2002 album Boo Hoo is available for a limited time as a Bandcamp name-your-price download. It’s a fitting companion to Heart-Shaped Wound.
When we mention that there are two new Steve Roach albums on cassette, reactions are either a look of bewilderment or a thoughtful introspective smile. Sometimes both. Steve was recently asked about this. He replies…
Over the last year, we’ve received a growing number of requests for music on cassette. After watching the underground revival of a medium many of us thought had rolled over long ago for all things digital, I was inspired to release my two new albums on cassette.
The interest for cassettes is not a new thing, and continues to grow beyond a niche audience. Internet searches will bring up an immense trove of information on this trend.
I feel the renewed interested is a combination of things: Nostalgia, for those who first heard electronic music on cassette back in the day, and a fond recollection of the analog playback experience and the organic tape sound.
I recently received the Long Thoughts cassette back from the factory. I had no idea what to expect. I played it in loop mode for several hours on auto-reverse on an Onyko cassette deck I’ve had in the studio for years. Long Thoughts in this medium has a rich, warm and full sound along with a pleasant, soft quality around the edges. I was quite surprised and happy with the result. I still have hundreds of cassettes of unreleased pieces from the 80’s. I regularly rummage through these tapes looking for a lost moment, and they still play fine and sound good for their age.
As for now and why? With so much of what compels me, it’s based on a feeling in the air. With the theme and spirit of Nostalgia for the Future, it just felt like the right time to create these audio offerings for the future. The cassette is something of a memory-activating timepiece you can hold in the palm of your hand and have a taste of the analog sound some people still long for. Nostalgia made real.
Aurelio Voltaire returns to Projekt for his 11th studio album, Heart-Shaped Wound, expected around Labor Day weekend’s DragonCon Show in Atlanta. Aurelio Voltaire is on the road all of August with his friends Bella Morte. I created a Spotify Playlist< with songs from both artists for your enjoyment Pre-Order the new album at the Projekt website for $14 + shipping.
Jeffrey Koepper creates live analog electronic music on WXPN’s Stars End radio. Saturday into Sunday morning. June 18 2-3am ET. Stream it live from WXPN
Projekt’s Mercury’s Antennae have 4 upcoming shows in Oregon + Washington. Visit this Facebook event page for the full details. July 1st Eugene, OR July 6th Olympia, WA July 7th Portland, OR July 8th Seattle, WA
This vast release takes the listener to different places and spaces on 22 uniquely compelling auditory episodes. Erik’s 2-CD studio album reveals wide-ranging and wide-angled electronic compositions. This monumental statement explores and expands upon the Norwegian musician’s 35 years of musical experience in the electronic and ambient realms.
Please write a customer review of Different Spaces at Amazon or iTunes. Your reviews are very helpful, as they encourage potential customers to make the plunge and purchase Erik’s fantastic new album. Thanks for doing this for us. – Sam
Soriah (with Ashkelon Sain): enrapturing, neo-ancient, mystically ethereal; hypnotic tribal rhythms meld organic darkwave textures with Central Asian instruments and Tuvan overtone singing.Two Projekt CDs on sale for $10 each: 2009’s Atlan and 2011’s Eztica. For a limited time, get a name-your-price download of their 2011 tour recording: The Eztica Live Collection, at Bandcamp.
Projekt’s Soriah launched their West Coast tour with an amazing show here in Portland Sunday. They’re playing seven more cities, follow these links for full details:
2/22 – The Colfax Theater, Colfax CA | Facebook Event Page 2/23 – The Night Light, Oakland CA | Facebook Event Page 2/25 – Bar Sinister, Hollywood CA | Facebook Event Page 2/26 – The Box, Santa Cruz CA | Facebook Event Page 3/3 – Obsidian, Olympia WA | Facebook Event Page 3/4 – The Highline, Seattle WA | Facebook Event Page 3/11 – Old Nick’s Pub, Eugene OR | Facebook Event Page
Facebook Event Page for entire tour