2 Indigo Shift 12:07
3 Holding Light 17:15
4 The Way Forward 14:49
Total Time: 73:56
Mesmerizing soundworlds from an artist immersed in the sensual realms of electronic/ambient sonic creation. Steve Roach dives further into the deep end of introspective music on this atmospheric set. Focusing on the essential elements of sound, silence, tone, and time-altering forms, the four long-form pieces are a lens to view the molecules of emotion and enhanced perception. Peeling away the surface layers to reveal the subterranean strata beneath, Etheric Imprints brings into form a contained sense of stillness and reflection.
Reaching towards a new voice in Roach’s vocabulary of expressing the ineffable, the twenty-eight-minute title track was created with an highly processed electric grand piano as the main voice. Performing in real time and responding to an expansive electro-acoustic environment, Roach profoundly shapes and molds musical space and tone in his hands. In this piece, moments of stillness arise like waves of flow and ebb while a substratum of analog modular synth zones provides a constant, slowly shifting undercurrent of mystery and harmonic interplay.
The ethereal, ghost-like forms of the cover art perfectly capture the subtle sense of expanded body-spirit awareness the music evokes. Meditations upon Tuyen Q. Nguyen’s artwork during the creative process helped inspire a new pathway into places beyond The Delicate Forever, Steve’s previous atmospheric release. Etheric Imprints evokes an aural phenomena that seems to float and hover, expanding and dissipating before our very ears. A kind of Rorschach test for the auditory senses that can offer a different imprint at every listen; what we bring to it completes the experience. This music – like the artist himself – lives in the center of a soundworld that knows no boundaries.
Best described as “elegant minimalism,” Etheric Imprints offers a deeper listening into the nuance of now by way of the power of sound.
Reviews Editor –
È caratteristica comune dei musicisti ambient quella di essere iperproduttivi, con decine di pubblicazioni nell’arco di un anno. Tutto questo non è solo dovuto ad una innata prolifica ispirazione, ma anche ad una materia musicale particolarmente adatta alle manipolazioni, anche minime, della stessa matrice sonora. Ma i musicisti autentici, quelli che alla fine fanno la storia e le fortune di un genere, sono coloro che riescono anche a imprimere svolte marcate nelle loro proposte artistiche. È il caso di Steve Roach, forse una delle massime espressioni dell’ambient, visto che le sue prime uscite risalgono all’inizio degli anni 80. Un percorso artistico impossibile da sintetizzare in poche righe, che ha trovato nuova linfa lo scorso anno grazie a uscite come Momuments Of Ecstasy o Invisible.
Tuttavia Etheric Imprints si presenta diverso dagli album che lo hanno preceduto. In esso la componente introspettiva diventa forte, ma soprattutto non evoca i paesaggi naturali o i rimandi alle culture ancestrali di molti suoi lavori, ma piuttosto un vuoto siderale, un senso di mancanza e di chiusura che potrebbe rispecchiare un qualche passaggio nello stato d’animo del suo autore. L’uso di ectoplasmi vocali campionati in “Indigo Shift” è quanto di più inquietante Roach abbia fatto in carriera e le atmosfere rarefatte e silenziose della title-track rimandano all’isolazionismo puro di Thomas Köner. Solo nel finale di “The Way Forward” si torna a respirare qualcosa del vecchio Roach, con i suoi flussi armonici e le sue microvariazioni sul tema. D’altronde il titolo stesso, Etheric Imprints, è ben esemplificativo del contenuto dell’album: un imprinting eterico a livello dei corpi sottili, qualcosa di impalpabile e onirico, ma tremendamente influenzante sulla nostra psiche e sul nostro corpo. Etheric Imprints è la nuova sfida di un autore che, dopo 30 e più anni, trova la forza per mostrare nuovi lati della sua personalità: disco difficile ma di grande fascino, consigliato agli appassionati di ambient. Rating: 7 -Ferruccio Filippi
Reviews Editor –
From Musique Machine
Here’s a late 2015 release from prolific veteran ambient electronic musician Steve Roach. The faint, cosmic scale space ambience found on this recording strikes a contrast to last year’s Skeleton Keys, which was a tapestry of interlocking melodic arpeggios owing much to the original Berlin style of ambient as created by Klaus Schulze. Roach has many albums of this kind in his long discography, however, notably the Immersion series. Roach has historically been a very patient musician, unafraid to dwell for long hours in cloudy, nearly static tonal spaces, with countless albums containing unbroken 70 minute tracks.
The first piece, title track “Etheric Imprints”, is especially vaporous, sparse, a vast near-emptiness. The only sound in the entire 30 minute length of the track is the long, luminous contrail of a distant and waterlogged piano tone, reminiscent of Harold Budd. It is a remote, somnolent sound environment, but not unsettling, as the smooth texture is quite pleasant, the murmuring tones occasionally arranging into ghosts of romantic daydreams. Overall, it is rather meandering and unfocused, and I would call it soothing, but difficult to directly listen to or engage with, as it seems to begin and end in vast motionlessness.
“Indigo Shift”, the 12 minute 2nd piece, is a cold, haunted texture, a drifting, distant drone with a ghoulish way of bending in pitch, of eternally descending, a sensation of vertigo, of losing vertical orientation, of removal from the safety of the body. Some kind of percolating chromatic scalar pattern occupies a muted lower register deep in the backdrop, sounding like an excerpt from a Messiaen organ piece. Unwelcoming it as it may seem, I enjoy this one for the fact that it’s not quite typical Roach, sounding more like the haunted subterranean surrealism of Cyclobe or Nurse With Wound to me, with a dreamlike macabre feeling.
From there, the album gains a bit of warmth and volume with the gentle, overtly chordal consonance of “Holding Light”. Swells of luscious, shimmering synth undulate with the calming regularity of lapping waves. There is a sense of true contentedness and reverence in this track, the most immediately lovable piece on here by far, a soulful progression to rival the most memorable pieces from his classic Mystic Chords & Sacred Spaces. Listening to this piece is blissful, and yet inspires a painful degree of compassion, and reflections upon the inevitability of time (as the best ambient music does). With the perfect emotion captured by this track, I wouldn’t have minded if he’d put it out as a 70 minute album on its own.
“The Way Forward”, 4th and final piece on the album, continues the re-assuring feeling of “Holding Light”, this time a single voice (rather than cloud-like chord) throwing out playful melodic phrases in soothing watery undulations. Though the soft siren song of this track is in many ways similar to the 1st piece, here the sound seems to burst with light, energy and color, where that track had only dimness. Later in the track, warm brassy swells and mellotron-esque synth create a soft bed of gently comforting energy. This is an absolutely lovely track, and also ranks among my absolute favorite Roach.
Upon first hearing the album, I was a bit underwhelmed by the general minimalism, distant feeling and slow pace of the first two pieces, finding them difficult to focus upon. Admittedly, Roach has many albums so sparse as to be difficult to remember or derive meaning from, even after many listens. I appreciate these to some extent, but would not call them favorites. However, Etheric Imprints turns out to be a bit more diverse than that, with the affectingly melodic and boldly beautiful 2nd half providing a glorious compliment to the subtle opening sections. I wouldn’t say it’s one of Roach’s most accessible works, as it unfolds very slowly, but it is a balanced and well considered album, an experience that improves the more times it is repeated and considered. It has become a favorite album of mine for sleeping, and certainly ranks among his better slower paced recordings. Rating: 5/5 -Josh Landry
Reviews Editor –
From Sonic Curiosity
This 2015 release features 74 minutes of tender ambience.
Here, we have an interesting dose of ambient tuneage that explores the acoustic side of minimalism as well as an electronic interpretation.
Initially, Roach utilizes the piano as his main instrument for the first half of the album. Languid notes linger, fading with a faint echo. A melody is described, but it is too stretched out to be instantly noted. The somber notes unfurl in sequences that evoke a somnambulant quality-or more precise: the realm one experiences passing from wakefulness and sleep.
Some electronics are present, but they remain secondary, even suppressed. These texturals hide deep in the relatively sparse mix, lending subliminal character to the piano. For the most part, these atmospheric electronics are often so tenuous as to become invisible, discernible solely in the piano notes’ afterglow.
Gradually, tonal threads emerge from the vaporous environment to dominate things with their pointedly-subdued resonance. A strange density is achieved, pressure generated by the meticulous application of rarefied forces.
This music serves as a meticulously generated bridge between ambient and classical music. The minimal piano establishes a very organic presence that inevitably leads to a realm of sighing electronic pulsations.
Eventually, the electronics command the stage with their eerie presence, unleashing tonalities that ebb and flow in a manner more common among Roach’s ambient compositions. This portion of the music actually musters a degree of authority with its surging waves. -Matt Howarth
Reviews Editor –
From Onda Rock
In un 2015 che lo ha visto tornare, dopo anni di relativa riduzione, alla prolificità dei primi Duemila – siamo qui di fronte al settimo album tra solisti e collaborazioni e senza contare remaster e compilation – Steve Roach pubblica quello che è probabilmente e per certi versi il lavoro più atipico degli ultimi anni della sua carriera. Se le meditazioni spettrali di “Invisible” e le proiezioni in superficie di “Future Flows” avevano mostrato un ridursi della componente immersiva del suo suono, divenuta predominante dall’abbandono delle sperimentazioni trancedeliche, “Etheric Imprints” segna senza mezzi termini una rottura autentica col passato recente.
La componente interiorizzante, dai risvolti quasi esistenziali, che già aveva fatto ingresso silenziosamente nelle trame del maestro californiano, prende di colpo il sopravvento. Mai un disco di Steve Roach era parso così rarefatto. Niente più immersioni in un ambiente altro che la musica era chiamata a evocare e costituire al tempo stesso. Stavolta l’ambiente è invece accennato, tratteggiato appena: e quelle circostanze emotive in precedenza lasciate alla libera esperienza soggettiva dell’ascoltato sono qui imposte e protagoniste assolute, nella sostanza di un isolazionismo disarmante.
A modificarsi, in seno a tutto questo, è anche un gergo sonoro per molti divenuto ripetitivo e sterile da anni, ma mai passibile di microvariazioni in grado di regalare prospettive sempre nuove a un’esperienza d’ascolto pressoché inesauribile in tutte le sue possibilità. Niente più sinewave e flussi in dialogo: l’ouverture della title track, destinata a divenire uno dei brani-emblema del presente di Roach, si abbandona al dimesso e rassegnato languore di note di piano sintetico, sfiorando da vicino le contemplazioni nel buio del collega Harold Budd. Tutt’attorno un silenzio inquieto, che nella catarsi di “Indigo Shift” viene avvolto dal ritorno di spettri vocali deformati, contorni di un rituale oscuro al cui centro si colloca un arpeggiatore analogico detonato.
Bisogna aspettare “Holding Light” per ritrovare qualche traccia del suono (e delle atmosfere) più classiche di Roach: fra flussi, armoniche, comete e asteroidi si torna a parlare un linguaggio più familiare. Diciassette minuti che fungono da eccezione a livello sonoro, pur celebrando la venuta della luce che in “The Way Forward” assume connotati più concreti ed empirici, tra amalgami di loop e la melodia finale à-la Michael Danna, affidata alla voce solitaria di una tastiera. Una chiusura che corona alla perfezione un percorso di auto-analisi che stavolta prescinde da ogni carattere meditativo, preferendo a esso una forma di realismo emotivo.
Una scelta che non ha mancato da subito di spiazzare i fan più legati al verbo classico di Roach, sconfinato e sconfinante per definizione e costituzione, in grado per questo di regalare un maggior numero di possibilità di fruizione. Ad essere accontentati saranno forse per una volta coloro che da anni sostengono la tesi di un empasse autocontemplativo insormontabile in cui il maestro dell’ambient music sarebbe “imprigionato” da tempo. E Roach, dal canto suo, con quest’ennesima (e stavolta molto più tangibile) modificazione prospettica, conferma di avere ancora molto da insegnare a chi sappia (o meglio, a chi voglia) concedersi all’arte dell’ascolto. Rating: 7 (very good) -Matteo Meda
Richard Gurtler –
A review from Richard Gurtler
After triumphant 2015 releases such as nebulously embracing “Invisible” or spectacularly sparkling analog projects “Skeleton Keys”, Steve Roach delves deeper into tranquilly enrapturing terrains, significantly marked by his “Etheric Imprints”. Released on Projekt during July 2015 in elegant 6-panel digipak graced by gorgeous images by Vietnamese visual artist Tuyen Q. Nguyen with additional graphic design by Sam Rosenthal. As usual for the latest recordings of Steve Roach, exactly since “Structures From Silence” 3CD edition. the mastering job is handled by Spotted Peccary’s wizard Howard Givens.
Nearly 30-minute long title track “Etheric Imprints” immediately sets magnificently elusive atmosphere with its amorphously introspective processed electric grand piano. When Steve Roach has revealed some first, “behind the scenes” informations on this album, he has promised a really surprising opus and I must admit that “Etheric Imprints” composition shifts his soundcarving into a brand new level, where profoundly poignant atmosphere is reinforced by monstrously delicate piano serenity precisely bridged with intangibly nuanced drone blankets, perplexingly spiraling tenuousness and suggestively engulfing stillness. I don’t know how the connection between the sounds and visuals was built, but their symmetry is incredibly gorgeous. “Etheric Imprints” composition showcases Steve Roach at a quite unique edge within ambient and modern classical realms, deliberately minimal, yet intensely evocative. Bravo!!! This utterly immersing sonic meditation clandestinely permeates across the next piece, “Indigo Shift”, but dramatic undulations quickly invade and steal the journey. Tenser drones continuously cascade and interact with otherworldly crescendoing sculptings. Weirdly pinnacling, helixing and disrupting, nearly cacophonous and hallucinogenic. 12 minutes long sonic endeavor is in strong contrast with the opening piece. Undoubtedly this is a truly peculiar metamorphose, absolutely unexpected, which certainly spans a lot of controversy. But to my ears, this is another proof of the Master’s visionary, when encountering extraordinarily challenging and intricately mind-blowing realms. The more I dive to it, the more enigmatic is this escapade!!! Why not? And on the top of that, and that amazes me quite a lot, Tuyen Q. Nguyen’s cover images can interact even with this mysterious piece!!! The artwork can be in one moment serenely embracing, but in the next moment as much tumultuous. With the next track Steve Roach safely returns to more comfortable zones meticulously utilizing arsenal of his monumentally graceful and thrillingly panoramic insignias. 17-plus minutes long piece vigorously drifts on immensely infinite and perpetually blissful tides. A fully rewarding listening experience awaits here, a pure magic, so connect deeply to the genius’ ultra atmospheric oasis!!! I keep on “Holding Light” with goosebumps on my arms since the very first exploration!!! “The Way Forward” clocks to nearly 15-minute mark and it closes this stirringly poignant adventure with rather weeping waves and meanders persistently counterpointed with warmly sinuous layers, masterly permeated by earmarking shimmering sensual heat. Feel the wonder of desert life, because no one else is capable of transferring these awe-inspiring images into profoundly enveloping sonic canvas like the Master.
After the bundle “The Delicate Forever” and “The Delicate Beyond”, Steve Roach continues in expanding his artistic horizons, thus “Etheric Imprints” album is a truly vital addition to his enormous body of recordings. We all must be really grateful for such consistent creativity and passion!!! And keep in mind, this iconic sound architect has released few weeks ago his long-awaited colossal 4CD project “Bloodmoon Rising”. And last but not least, a very special year-end release is scheduled for December!!! Still going forward, the journey continues…
Richard Gürtler (Oct 05, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)
Reviews Editor –
Steve Roach has been on a fairly prolific streak over the last couple of years that has manifested itself in several incarnations, from deep drifts to back-to-the-begnning analog workouts. With such a spread—which is nothing new for Mr. Roach—there are a lot of familiar sounds and vistas in his canon, which is what makes the beginning of Etheric Imprints very interesting. It’s something we haven’t really heard before: Roach on piano. The first of the four long tracks that make up Etheric Imprints is 29 minutes of Roach playing and manipulating an electric grand piano in real time. Somber in tone and picked out slowly note by patient note, this title track grabs hold of the resonant sounds of each strike on the keys and weaves it into the shifting background. Roach uses this to lead us into a dark and quiet middle section that gives more space to the ambient tones, then lets the piano rise back up. It’s a lovely, shadow-filled and contemplative piece that deserves the attention it’s getting for its perceived deviation from standard Roach course. After the auspicious start, Etheric Imprints explores three other spaces with a stronger common tie to Roach’s expected sounds. But even at that, there are twists. “Indigo Shift” plays with dissonant tones tied into a dark, drifting wall of sound for an interesting, uneasy feel. There’s a very effective stretch just before mid-track, and repeated later, where these twisting rogue tones work against a set of rising pads; it becomes almost a kinetic thing, the two element pushing against each other with growing force. That sense of unease gets stronger here before Roach lets you relax. By comparison, “Holding Light” takes the listener upward, out toward spacemusic territory. I’m reminded of the big starscapes Roach explored in The Magnificent Void. Gentle power, a sense of range and scope, meditative beauty–all in this classic-ambient track. The balance of dark and light is completed on “The Way Forward” as it slowly pieces together a melodic line on swelling chords. Just as the title track worked its way through its story draped in greys and questions, this piece uses brighter tonal hues and a sense of certainty and optimism.
Much will be said of the piano on Etheric Imprints (and already has). It’s funny how a simple switch of approach garners so much discussion. Looking at the album as a whole, Roach once again balances his equation and puts forth a journey with a discernibly different start and finish. And although we begin in “new” territory and wind up in a familiar spot, it is that journey that matters. We go into Etheric Imprints looking to set aside an hour to explore and see, and that is exactly what Roach gives us, as usual.
Reviews Editor –
The floating ghostly smoke image that adorns the cover fits the music perfectly, drifting freely in space, never tethered to any notion of rhythm or structure, yet moving and melodic. Here soundworld creator Roach is back in his best known element, a reflective and introspective form that moves intimately with the spirit and subconscious through an ever-floating pathway of mysterious emotion and perception. On the opening title cut, which clocks in at nearly 30 minutes, one can hear that the drifting ambient melodics are built from the basic sounds of a piano, heavily processed and stretched into space, warped and bent into sheets of shifting currents, gently morphing into peaks of subtle chaos and deep spaces of stillness, rising and falling like the solar winds.
Three more side-long cuts seem to be more dense, vast and synth based, but follow a similar emotional thread, evoking a shimmering world of spatial consciousness with multi-layered cosmic waves drifting outward and inward in all directions. Throughout these four pieces, the sound cuts through the surface of the listeners awareness and heads straight for the subconscious, offering illumination and shading as it goes, transforming the core perceptual experience and altering mood. Perhaps after a thousand plays I will begin to know this music as music, rather than as an experiential journey, if I ever get there, but for now every new spin is a magical web of surprises at every turn, filled with things I had never noticed before. -Peter Thelen
Reviews Editor –
From Prog Archives
2015 has delivered several releases in a range of different ambient styles from pioneering electronic composer Steve Roach, and his latest for the year, Etheric Imprints, is the most satisfying of all, a deeply immersive work from a master of the genre. Whereas Monuments of Ecstasy (his collaboration with Byron Metcalf and Rob Thomas) presented an ancient/modern/futuristic take on tribal atmospheres, `Invisible’ and the latest `Bloodmoon’ volume offered subtle earthy drones and Skeleton Keys diverted back into analogue/sequencer patterns, Etheric Imprints is a sparse, unhurried and hypnotic instrumental soundworld that drifts to a place where time holds no meaning. There’s a delicately honed sense of stillness and only the most subtle of movement to this exquisite work of deep reflection, fluid ambience and shifting sensations.
The thirty-minute title track is an opening drift of echoing processed electric piano that is sombre and softly brooding, yet achingly beautiful as darker music so often is. Revealing the most subtle of black and white cinematic whispers, each piano note expands like a ghostly tip-toe or a pinprick drop of rain on a lake, with only fleeting moments taking tantalising teasing steps towards hope and light. Electronic ripples throughout `Indigo Shift’ are hesitant and unsure, disorientating and psychedelic, and the breathless roaring rising and falling drone that quickly enters is unexpected and even just a little maddening.
By comparison, `Holding Light’ is almost a respite, an enveloping and gently sweeping glide of electronic flutters and glistening whirring spacey shivers that almost harkens back to the cocooning embrace of Roach’s `Structures from Silence’, just a touch darker. `The Way Forward’ closes with shimmering siren call-like electronic caresses sweeping with a resigned acceptance and contentment, where little moments briefly call to mind Rick Wright’s sorrowful and aching keyboards on Pink Floyd’s `Shine On, You Crazy Diamond’ and then vanish in an instant.
It’s in these slowly evolving, ever-shifting ambient compositions where Roach is the most inspired these days. Despite the accusations of repetition from more ignorant listeners, each work from the artist reveals refined distinctive qualities that only the most patient of progressive electronic and ambient devotees will discover, but their perseverance will be rewarded with an elegant and ethereal work where you can spend a lifetime unearthing its many secrets. Challenging, thoughtful and even confronting, Etheric Imprints is a haunting and affecting soundtrack that makes for Roach’s most carefully considered, satisfying and inspired release since The Delicate Forever. Rating: 4/5 stars
Reviews Editor –
With a back catalogue boasting more than 100 releases since 1982, Steve Roach is one of the great Masters of ambient music. His output is immense: there are 6 releases mentioned on Discogs for 2015 and we’re only halfway through the year. It is also very diverse: his earlier work inspired by the likes of Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze and Vangelis, often returning to the sequencer based Berlin-school and modular synths – but also tribal rhythms inspired by the natural beauty of the southwest of the United States… and everything inbetween.
Etheric Imprints offers four long highly introspective tracks – ‘focusing on the essential elements of sound, silence, tone, and time-altering forms; peeling away the surface layers to reveal the subterranean strata beneath.’
The opening title track, with 29:42 also the longest track on the album, has a beautiful deep grand piano sound ‘responding to an expansive electro-acoustic environment’ immediately reminiscing the best of Brian Eno‘s installation works. On the subsequent tracks, the piano slowly retreats to make place for more dissonant notes, but the overall sound remains etheric and totally immersive.
Reviews Editor –
From Synth & Sequences
After all this time, how Steve Roach can have something to charm us? Through good times and bad and from album to album, the magician of cerebral waves always succeeds in raising his works at a level that few have reached. And when they make it, it’s only for the time of one album. After his very interesting incursion in the universe of the ambient rhythms finely shaken by the delicious movements of sequences of the modular Synthesizer System, the bard of the intimately introspective atmospheres returns this time with an opus of purely meditative music. Etheric Imprints proposes 4 long tracks where the sound elements sculpt the imprints of instruments that our ears recognize throughout their slow dying vibrations. It’s a monument of tranquility where the shadows float roguishly, a little as to half-open the doors of another universe of perceptions
The very long title-track opens with a kind of rustle which melts into a heavy sinister shadow. Some people will hear a long muffled drone or a stringed instrument which tortures its soul and complains slowly in guttural breezes, while others will perceive only the reverberations of the shadows which fall in the notes of a forsaken piano. The magic of Roach operates straightaway with this way that he has to stack his notes, and especially their shadows, in a sound mosaic which often wants to be a posology against the constant race against time which little by little crumbles our life. Here the atmospheres are as much immersive as in the Immersion series, but with the reflections of the notes of a very meditative piano. Notes which fall in a endless gap and decorate the walls where whisper the rustles of huge shadows and cry the reverberations of the lines of an absolutely black synth. Lines which will always agglutinate all along the track like a thick cloud of threatening shadows. “Indigo Shift” aims to be the mirror image of “Etheric Imprints”. Here the notes of the piano are becoming shadows, while the synth lines spread a sibylline aura with a heap of sonic graffiti which weaken their lines into long lethal kisses. The ambiences are heavy. So much that we lose of ears the reflections of the piano keys. The layers wrap us with a powerful curtain of sounds filled of scarlet lamentations and where roams an appearance of cacophony which perturbs the ambiences of “Indigo Shift”, contrary on the title-track which aims to be a slow cerebral sexual intercourse of which the only orgasm remains the reaching of our level of peace of mind. After this long sibylline ambient ode, “Holding Light” is the music piece which is closer of Steve Roach’s usual ambient elegies. The happiness is in our ears! The color of the sounds is rich with some slow and long layers of synth which float and roll like some astral waves.
A little more and we deviate towards the secrets of Structures from Silence. Thus, how can’t we fall under the charms of “Holding Light”?”The Way Forward” doesn’t go too far from the musicality of “Holding Light” by presenting a structure which mixes superbly both extremes of Etheric Imprints. The textural envelope of the synth lines throws a cosmic wave while the lamentations, more visible here than on Etheric Imprints, are really sounding as a cello that we caress with a lead bow. It’s slow and it’s heavy while that other synth lines, more lively here, roll calmly, like these last waves which unwind the last fits of anger of the oceans.
Literally split into two visions, Etheric Imprints is Ying and the Yang of an ode where the contrasts are intimately connected by the needs for each other. As much it’s sibylline, as much it’s seraphic. And it’s also something big from Steve Roach who mixes skillfully the fragrances of The Delicate Forever to the black moods of the Immersion series while tickling the ghosts of Structures from Silence. And let’s admit with such an arsenal, we can only be totally bewitched! Magical and astonishing, this is what Steve Roach is giving us since years. -Sylvain Lupari
Reviews Editor –
This latest trio of Projekt releases brings with it a number of surprises, perhaps the biggest one being the deeply atmospheric style of Steve Roach’s Etheric Imprints. There’s none of the tribal-ambient material that appears on some of Roach’s recent output and sequencer patterns are pretty much absent altogether. Put simply, the seventy-four-minute Etheric Imprints presents a decidedly different Roach than the one documented on other recent Projekt releases.
That being said, certain characteristic qualities remain, among them Roach’s penchant for long-form settings. In this case four are featured, the shortest twelve minutes and the longest thirty. It’s the latter, the album’s title track, that provides the biggest surprise, given that it features highly processed electric grand piano as the central sonic element. It’s tempting to draw a parallel between the gossamer piano sound Roach features on his electro-acoustic setting to the presentation of the same instrument on Eno’s Music For Airports and Harold Budd’s collaboration with Eno, The Plateaux of Mirror, and the temptation grows even stronger when Roach augments his piano playing with an aromatic, crystalline haze of analog modular synth tones.
Certainly there are similarities in that regard, but there is a key difference, too, specifically the pronounced degree to which Roach’s piano drifts during its half-hour journey. By comparison, the playing on the other albums hews closely to melodies that strengthen the recordings’ foundation in song structure. Roach executed “Etheric Imprints” in real time, a detail that helps account for its seemingly spontaneous character and the impression generated of material being created and shaped in the moment, and though it’s a retiring and introspective piece, it’s not lacking in dynamism.
“Etheric Imprints” isn’t the album’s only surprise. The second piece, “Indigo Shift,” which follows the first without pause, exudes an hallucinatory and haunted, even nightmarish quality in the pitch-shifting of its synth patterns and vaporous backgrounds. The effect is so dramatic, it induces a psychic queasiness in the listener that’s hard to shake. A sultry, seventeen-minute exercise in nuanced synthetic soundsculpting, “Holding Light” adheres to a deep ambient style that’s more familiar by comparison, while “The Way Forward” closes the album on a quieter note with fifteen minutes of silken synth tones and washes. It’s a compliment to Roach that after so many years of music production, he’s still able to surprise, as demonstrated so strikingly by the album’s opening settings.
Reviews Editor –
From Star’s End
Etheric Imprints (73’54”) may first feel like mere weightless flight within a mesmerizing drone. But, if used to fill the many cold hours before dawn, it reveals much. Our most reliable spark in the dark, Steve Roach opens this album with the unknown wants of mild dissonance. Along with his well-warmed synthesizers and affective atmosphere Roach introduces cavernous sized piano notes. Uttering the undertone of this work this acoustic component opens Etheric Imprints into a constant twilight at the edge of forgetting. A spider webbing of force beams sets and gets the tone just right – and as sound pours around the listener this cool music smolders just a bit.
Passing through the night, diffuse sounds rise against a much larger backdrop. Twinning and twisting, the tempest eventually lulls – and chromatism rolls into consonance. With starlight chords shining in a shadowy midnight, waves of rounded electronic notes produce tranquil zones for inward contemplation. Throughout the moody flow of its sensory effects Etheric Imprints elicits emotion and appeals to the imagination. Traveling through the vague zones of its four tracks, Roach saves his lyrical moments until the end. In a solo voiced electronic motif, a gently recurring theme brings this album to its most motile point. Steve Roach is certainly aware of this music’s past, present, and hopes for its future – but in this particular arrangement of sonics he wishes to transmit its expansive promise. -Chuck van Zyl
Reviews Editor –
From Sonic Immersion
After the analogue sequencer-outing Skeleton Keys, Steve Roach hereby returns to deeply expansive, emotive and contemplative electronic music comprised into four minimalist low volume tracks.
Lots of reverb is at play in these slow morphing, melancholic-infused textural waves, all focusing on the essential elements of sound: silence, tone, and time-altering forms. These key basics are already merged together nicely with some sustained Eno-esque piano keys on the 30-minute title piece opening the album. Darker shades and perfumes fade in on “Indigo Shift”, a gentle psychedelic dwelling in which both ascending and descending sensations are present. Thereafter, the sky opens up in brightness on the captivating “Holding Light”, a smooth atmospheric drift surrounding a powerful liquid core. The ethereal soundtrip ends aptly with the transparent, introspective soundwave tapestries of “The Way Forward”, in which a sense of hope and release shimmers through clearly.
Although a link with Structures from Silence and Quiet Music still can be noticed occasionally, Etheric Imprints (featuring a contained sense of sensuality, stillness and reflection) sure is testament of music made in the contemporary timeframe. -Bert Strolenberg