“Emotions Revealed… makes for a sublime revealing trip back in time to a period when a creative artist was truly beginning to find his own voice, and a perfectly satisfying album in its own right as well.” – ProgArchives
A delayed transmission from the early 80s. Discovered serendipitously in 2015, these lost tracks created just prior to the Structures from Silence era represent two then-emerging sides of Steve’s artistic muse. “Emotion Revealed” is a mesmerizing, yearning sequencer exploration connected to the German school of electronic music. “Firelight” was his first long-form atmospheric composition of emotional introspection — stillness, silence, and solitude. Two essential touchstones of Steve’s sonic origin.
Track one – Emotion Revealed – was recorded live in 1983 at the Timeroom, Culver City, California, soon after Steve’s premiere solo cassette NOW (1982) was released. This piece presents a classic recording of the sound that defined the early years of Steve’s work showing the influence of the European Electronic Music of that era. The approach of capturing the emotions of the moment in the studio live is a through-line that continues into his work today.
Connected in contrast, the second track – Firelight – is informed by the stillness of the southwest desert experience: externalizing the feeling of these serene and austere expanses, evoking the introspection these isolated environments provide. This influence continues as an inspiration today and can be considered a soul tone in Steve’s work. This recording is the birth of Steve’s contemplative voice; the awakening of this space-location immersion style is clearly alive within this expression of sonic solitude. Considering the musical and cultural climate of the early 80s, “Firelight” had no audio peer or point of reference; this is the first recorded document in which Steve breaks away from the European influences, exploring a style that went on to become a genre all its own.
These two recordings are a rediscovery of an essential period from Steve’s catalog that could just as easily be a future transmission from 2083.
Steve’s reflections on Emotions Revealed:
“Both of these pieces were sleeping in time, hidden and nearly lost up until mid-2015. ‘Emotion Revealed’ was found after the Austrian label Vinyl on Demand contacted me about a NOW vinyl release. They requested a bonus track; I scoured the many archived boxes of hundreds of tapes dating to the late 70s and early 80s. Most were labeled with some shorthand, obscure title, or nothing at all. ‘Emotion Revealed’ had no label, but the chrome Maxell cassette was in new condition. Hearing it again, I instantly recalled the piece, and that at one point in the early 80s I was going to release it. One that got away was back in my hands! As it played I was shifted back to where it was recorded: the early Timeroom in Culver City. This tiny bungalow which looked like a gingerbread house was where workers from MGM studios – a mile away – had lived in the 1940s. This is the same studio-house where I recorded NOW, Structures From Silence, Quiet Music, and Empetus. The feeling in ‘Emotion Revealed’ expressed my optimism and desire to merge deeper into the music that I was creating at every moment. I remember this as the dawn of electronic music’s evolution out of the academic environment and into the world at large.
“’Firelight’ was created in this same studio in 1982 for an environmental art installation titled The Grounding Place by artist Rita Yokoi. The installation premiered in San Francisco with this music playing as a continuous loop. The composition was my first long-form exploration of sound serving as an environmental experience. Recorded on a Teac 4-track reel to reel, ‘Firelight’ was created in sections and combined to make the full-length track. The art installation was described in the program as, ‘A metaphorical description of the active aspect of equilibrium when a person achieves oneness with universal time.’ My years growing up in the desert regions of Southern California clearly informed this mood along with the themes I was drawing from at the artist’s request. I can still hear and feel this influence now. The original 4-track tape was lost after many moves; however a high-quality metal master cassette found its way to the San Diego house I grew up in. In the summer of 2015, I was going thorough archived material my mother had collected and stored in a dark, cool closet, and I discovered this tape: the only copy left. Hearing it again, I was taken by the tonalities I was drawn towards at the time, along with the sense of space and breath within the composition. The connection to then and now… emotions rediscovered and revealed after 34 years. The Timeroom indeed.”
Cover images by Cristina Matei
Reviews Editor –
Sin dal 1994 la Projekt Records di Sam Rosenthal (Black Tape For A Blue Girl) si è sempre preoccupata di curare molte uscite del pioniere dell’ambient Steve Roach, artista fondamentale per lo sviluppo del genere al quale si aggrappano tutt’oggi innumerevoli epigoni influenzati dalle sue sperimentazioni, che sintetizzavano in maniera estrema le teorizzazioni ambientali ed etniche dei contemporanei Brian Eno e Jon Hassell, partendo in tempi precedenti da proposte che rispecchiavano una decisa influenza della scuola elettronica tedesca con nomi come Tangerine Dream e Vangelis, con largo uso di sintetizzatori che Roach apprese a suonare da autodidatta. Parliamo di un artista in attività dal 1979 (quando faceva parte del progetto Moebius) e con alle spalle una produzione massiccia di materiale (si contano almeno 114 album in studio), le cui prime creazioni sonore sono a tutt’oggi merce rara e preziosa. Un aiuto fortuito arriva però, nel febbraio del corrente anno, proprio dalla stessa Projekt, che mette a disposizione questo album di due tracce disponibile in formato digipak a 4 pannelli con artwork curato da Rosenthal. Si tratta di due ritrovamenti a nome Steve Roach davvero importantissimi per chi, da neofita, si vuole avvicinare al suono primordiale dell’artista californiano per sondarne le influenze e le innovazioni.
Le lunghe suite – di quasi mezz’ora ciascuna – che compongono Emotions Revealed si estendono come una doppia facciata di quello che è stato e sarà il Roach degli esordi. Da un lato abbiamo le atmosfere chiaramente in linea con la scuola kosmische di “Emotion Revealed”, lunga e ridondante composizione su sequenziatore registrata live nello studio Timeroom poco dopo il debutto su tape di Roach, Now, datato 1982. Scoperta per caso dallo stesso Roach tra i suoi innumerevoli archivi di registrazioni mentre cercava una bonus-track da inserire nella ristampa in vinile del suddetto Now, suona, a detta dell’artista, come un’espressione del suo ottimismo e desiderio di scavare ancora più in profondità nelle sonorità che stava creando, un’evoluzione della musica elettronica che esce finalmente dall’ambiente accademico per spargersi nel mondo. In contrasto abbiamo invece la seconda traccia dell’album, Firelight, la prima composizione atmosferica di Roach che ricalca il suo concetto di manipolazione del suono, volto a creare soundscapes che non si attaccano a cose o luoghi fisici come l’aeroporto Enoniano, ma che si astraggono verso tutto ciò che è infinito o indefinito. Ispirata dalla tranquillità sospesa del deserto della California del Sud, nella quale è nato e cresciuto Roach, e nata come traccia per un’installazione artistica del 1982 dell’artista Rita Yokoi intitolata The Grounding Place, fu definita all’epoca come “una descrizione metaforica dell’aspetto attivo dell’equilibrio quando una persona raggiunge un tutt’uno con il tempo universale” e creata in diverse sezioni di registrazione poi attaccate assieme per crearne l’univocità. Ascoltare una suite ambient del genere, così impalpabile, sospesa ed evocativa, ed ubicarla in un anno come il 1982, fa capire quanto Roach già stesse precorrendo i tempi con un concetto di suono che si nutre di spazi sonici infiniti e sospesi, distaccandosi definitivamente dai rigidi dettami dell’elettronica dell’epoca. Sicuramente un album imperdibile per tutti gli amanti del genere, che avranno modo di avvicinarsi ad un vero pioniere dello stesso e recuperare due succose rarità provenienti direttamente dagli archivi casalinghi del musicista, funzionanti, sia per lui che per noi, come una vera macchina del tempo verso un passato che sa allo stesso tempo di vecchio e nuovo. -Lorenzo Nobili
Reviews Editor –
This latest entry in Roach’s catalog is an archival release of two long (and long lost) recently rediscovered pieces recorded in 1983 during his formative period (around the time of Now, Structures from Silence, Empetus, and Quiet Music) in Southern California. For whatever reasons, these were never included in any of his releases from that period, but are in fact two shimmering gems that are definitely worthy of attention. The opening title track is a nearly 25 minute journey of forward-moving cycles of perussive and bell sequences, an explorative main theme repeats with variation while ambient textures morph and change in the background, informed generously by the early 70s German school of electronic music. Following that, we have “Firelight,” one of Roach’s very first long-form floating environmental pieces clocking in at a little over 26 minutes. It’s a slow looping piece that recycles and folds over itself, while introdicing new sounds and feelings. This is a rich and multifaceted composition built on deep emotional introspection, breathing and flowing with a focus on stillness and solitude, that points toward the direction of much of his ambient works in the years since, though this seems a bit more quiet and introspective, without a lot of the multilayered density of his recent works. All taken, these are two essential discoveries from the lost and found that offer a working glimpse into Roach’s early years. -Peter Thelen
Reviews Editor –
From The Grim Tower
Atmosphere legend Steve Roach has never been one to sit on his laurels, and yet another one of his magnificent soundscapes is here in the form of this two track recording. Technically, it consists of pieces dating all of the way back to the eighties, and was previously lost. There wasn’t even a name on the tape! But due to the magic of technology, these old recordings sound as if they’d been made just a few months ago. That being said, both pieces will require a large degree of observation, such as I will offer here. The first piece is the title track, which is composed of two separate pieces. A basic piece composes the background, whilst something that I would almost liken to a sort of guitar seems to go off in several directions throughout the mix. The reverberation in the simplistic foreground piece seems to serve as a sort of conscious conductor, which seems to hold more of my attention than the artistic wizzums of which I’m being exposed to in the background. But it oddly enough works, because of it’s mantric nature. It’s like clockwork and feels almost mechanic, yet in an ethereal sense of things. As the piece continues, the background gets a bit louder and mixes in with the foreground mantra, making something that sounds just like we’d expect from Steve Roach. The piece fades out rather quietly, yet still retains it’s machine-like atmosphere up until the end.
The next piece we have is called “Firelight” and it’s by and large different. Whereas the title cut was very artistic and moving, this piece feels like a trip of sorts. Though we’re first assaulted by a rather grim sort of notion, the piece does lighten up a little to a sound which doesn’t even feel natural. It feels inhuman, like something completely not of this world. The piece is not overbearing, it feels almost non-existent and almost like the mere ebb and flow of a galaxy. I believe I’ve heard similar approaches in a visual novel or computer game, especially the very deep ones, where such a piece might benefit the story. There’s something ancient, powerful and removed from our world that exists within this piece. It drones for a bit, albeit in a pleasing way, until it finally explodes into what I can describe as a burst of color, where it finally explodes and fades out like a dead star… which still manages to glimmer brightly a few more times before it finally flickers out. All in all, you’re getting two drastically different pieces from Roach, which embody everything we’ve come to expect from him. They’re definitely worth your attention and the price of the journey. Rating: 8/10 -Eric May
Reviews Editor –
I don’t possess every recording Steve Roach has issued—it would be hard to imagine such a thing even being possible, given the magnitude of his output—but I do have enough to be able to identify Emotions Revealed as my favourite, at least insofar as pure listening pleasure is concerned. And that’s a funny thing because as it turns out the album’s two long-form tracks were not only recorded four decades ago but lost for much of that time. Emotions Revealed is very much one of those releases that wouldn’t have seen the light of day had Roach not discovered them by accident in mid-2015.
There are many reasons why Emotions Revealed is so appealing. There’s the stark contrast, first of all, between its twenty-five-minute settings, with the first a high-intensity exploration reminiscent of the sequencer-heavy style associated with German electronic music of the ‘70s and the second an introspective piece whose quiet serenity emits a power of an entirely different kind. Another thing that enhances the recording’s appeal is the absence of the ethno-tribal dimension that’s played a part in Roach’s recent recordings.
The opening title track, which he recorded in 1983 at the early Timeroom in Culver City, California, was re-discovered after Roach was contacted by the Austrian label Vinyl on Demand with the request for a bonus track to include on a vinyl issue of his 1982 solo cassette NOW. That in turn prompted Roach to sift through the hundreds of tapes in his archives whereupon the cassette containing “Emotion Revealed” was found. Listening to it anew, Roach was instantly transported back to the time of its creation and, we’re guessing, struck by the vitality and energy of the material’s purity of expression. Sonically, it’s a mesmerizing piece of music that first uses synthesizers and a vibraphone-like instrument to establish a hypnotic melodic foundation and then layers an extended, impassioned synthesizer solo on top of it. It’s the latter element in particular that accounts for the emotional quality of the piece, especially when the part sounds like something Roach executed live in the studio.
As stated, “Firelight,” which he created in 1982 in that same Timeroom for an environmental art installation by artist Rita Yokoi titled The Grounding Place, is wholly different in character. Recorded on a Teac four-track reel-to-reel, the piece represents Roach’s first experience in creating sound material for an environmental setting, as the music was incorporated into the installation design as a continuous loop. Though the original four-track tape had gone missing after many moves, he found a high-quality metal master cassette containing “Firelight” in archived material his mother had stored in a closet in the San Diego house where he grew up. Whereas “Emotion Revealed” is characterized by kinetic animation, “Firelight” embraces stillness, encourages contemplation, and—the heat of its title notwithstanding—exudes an oft-icy quality that would make it sound perfectly at home on a 2016 Glacial Movements release. Alternating between tones both muted and gleaming and rarely rising above the level of a murmur, Roach’s elegantly atmospheric setting exhales gently as it scales its melodic peaks and valleys.
Emotions Revealed presents dramatically contrasting sides of the composer, both settings magnificent for different reasons and well worth tracking down. Don’t be surprised if you find this one moving to the forefront of your Roach collection.
Reviews Editor –
Last year, the Austrian label Vinyl on Demand approached the synthesist and ambient music pioneer Steve Roach about reissuing his 1982 debut NOW as an LP. “They requested adding a bonus track,” writes Roach on his bandcamp. “I scoured the many archived boxes of hundreds of tapes dating to the late 70s and early 80s. Most were labeled with some shorthand, obscure title, or nothing at all. ‘Emotion Revealed’ was one with no label, but the chrome Maxell cassette was in new condition. Hearing it again, instantly I recalled the piece, and how at one point I was going to release it in the early 80s. One that got away was back in my hands!”
The search evidently led to Roach snooping around another archive (one many of us depend on) — the one his mother kept for him. “‘Firelight’ was created for an environmental art installation titled the Grounding Place by artist Rita Yokoi. The original 4-track tape was lost after many moves; however a high-quality metal master cassette found its way to the San Diego house I grew up in. In the summer of 2015, I was going thorough years of archived material my mother had collected and stored in a dark, cool closet, and I discovered this tape: the only copy left at this point.”
Both track were recorded at San Francisco’s Timeroom studios, a fact that Roach notes wryly: “The connection to then and now… emotions rediscovered and revealed after 34 years. The Timeroom indeed.”
“Emotions Revealed” and “Firelight” are available for free download on Roach’s bandcamp for the rest of the day. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait until February 2016 for it’s official release date. -Michael Scott Barron
Reviews Editor –
From Prog Archives
Released within the final hours of 2015, Emotions Revealed is a fifty-one minute collection of two early Eighties pieces by American progressive-electronic/ambient music icon Steve Roach. The artist was to release a landmark title in those genres with the enduring classic Structures from Silence in 1984, so these two works pre-date that seminal recording, but the paths towards it are instantly obvious here. One piece represents the initial influence that the defining Seventies European electronic artists such as Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream and the other Berlin School sound composers had on Roach in his early days, while the other shows Steve crafting his own personalised, more calming and drifting take on the styles that would fully emerge on his own works of that era.
Emotions Revealed was recorded live in California in 1983, soon after the release of Steve’s first cassette NOW, a reliable mix of vintage electronic and soothing New Age elements. That official debut was a reliable work, yet somewhat forgettable and one showing only a fraction of the musical personality and intelligence that Roach would become capable of shortly after (it must be said, however, that the release has plenty of fans, with a recent vinyl reissue very well received by followers of the artist), but the title track here already shows him growing in confidence, delivering a gently unrelenting and dreamy near- twenty-five minute sequencer driven instrumental. Despite sounding instantly like a more obvious and melodic version of the kind of soundscapes Klaus Schulze was delivering in the Seventies, the extended running time makes it a bolder experiment perhaps more interesting than much of the shorter aggressive sequencer-dominated pieces on Roach’s 1986 release Empetus a few years later. Electric piano chimes calmly loop unceasingly, revolving around slowly introducing sequencer ripples and unfurling deep-space lead synth soloing shimmering into the heavens.
In contrast, `Firelight’ journeys inwards, a serene and contemplative soundworld of great unfolding expanse, and just like Structures from Silence, an album wrongly dismissed by some as being vapid New Age prettiness, there’s fleeting moments of melancholy and an eerie edge drifting in the background ready to emerge amongst the softer moments. The first long-form extended piece attempted by Roach, `Firelight’ was composed to soundtrack an environmental art installation, playing on a continuous loop. It also turns out to have been a clear move away from his early influences, the first steps towards a distinctive sound of subdued atmosphere and hovering stillness that has maintained in various forms throughout his entire career. Completely devoid of any sequencers or percussive elements, the caressing washes of ebbing and flowing synths and reflective ethereal drones make it perfect companion piece to the above mentioned album, and the crystalline dreamy glistenings in the final minutes may even remind some of Steve Hillage’s ambient classic `Rainbow Dome Musick’.
Steve Roach has always been an artist constantly moving forwards, honing and evolving his sounds in subtle directions. With a steady stream of multiple studio and live releases throughout this and most years, usually full of inspiration and often requiring great patience and endless hours of replaying to reveal their secrets, a release like this that is both more compact and often approachable is hugely welcome and a pleasing diversion. Emotions Revealed is not merely some thrown together compilation of discarded demos not good enough the first time around, rather it makes for a sublime revealing trip back in time to a period when a creative artist was truly beginning to find his own voice, and a perfectly satisfying album in its own right as well.
Four stars, and a lovely way for progressive-electronic fans to farewell 2015. Rating: 4/5