Sam Rosenthal with Nick Shadow & Steve Roach — The Gesture of History (CD/LP)


Product Description

1. blood on the snow i view
2. blood on the snow ii 12:51
3. …and watch the galaxy turning view
4. the gesture of history view

“Haunting, beautiful and dreamlike …a shimmering panoramic soundfield, with Shadow’s viola being the only immediately recognizable instrument, enveloped in warm synth textures, occasionally rising up through the fabric to provide colorful dreamy melodics and intense highlights.” -Peter Thelen, Expose Magazine

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Viola-based textural ambient drift from Sam of Black Tape For A Blue Girl with Shadow’s viola, and synths/enhancements from Steve Roach.

LP: 140 gram black vinyl. Limited edition of 300.

The Gesture of History draws upon introspective passages where the organic texture and emotions of the viola play out over an atmosphere of engulfing mournful beauty. Delicate strings float upon shimmering, forever changing expressionistic backgrounds of processed viola, synth, and harmonium – profoundly sensitive and deeply moving. The modernist ambient compositions balance on the precipice looking back in moments of reflection and rumination while delicately holding the future in our hands.

The artists

For 33 years, Sam Rosenthal has been the songwriter/primary band member of the gothic/ethereal/ambient act Black Tape For A Blue Girl. Spreading his wings over the last five years, Sam has released 3 instrumental electronic albums including a recent collaboration with Mark Seelig.

Steve Roach is a leading American pioneer in the evolution of ambient/electronic music, helping shape it into what it is today. Grammy-nominated in 2018 and 2019 consecutively, his career spans four decades and nearly 150 releases. Drawing from a vast, unique and deeply personal authenticity, his albums are fueled by the momentum of a lifetime dedicated to the soundcurrent.

Shadow is an enigmatic violist based in Portland, Oregon. They perform in a number of local bands, busk at Powell’s Books during the holidays, and perform on the most recent two Black Tape For A Blue Girl albums.

The story of the album

This album exists because of the generous support of backers at Kickstarter and patrons at Bandcamp. In March of 2019, 267 backers pledged $8,631 at Kickstarter to help bring this project to life.

Sam recalls:

The Gesture of History began with an instrumental I created for the Black Tape For A Blue Girl Blood on the snow EP utilizing processed and sequenced viola. The track features Nick Shadow, a fantastic Portland-based violist who’s been part of the band on our two recent albums. Soon after, I processed and structured “Blood ii” in the same moody, textural vein, and Nick played some live viola over the piece. During the mixing of To touch the milky way, I escaped from the rigors of that highly-focused work by creating the longer “The Gesture of History,” a viola-harmonium-synth track with a compelling, engaging flow. This piece goes to a deep, rich place; I sensed I had the makings of a great album if I could shape the earlier pieces to fit with the new one.

I fully admit that artists are weird, in that a listener might be satisfied with the tracks as they stood. Yet I knew there was something more I wanted to hear; I could sense it, but I wasn’t sure how to get there. To find a new perspective, I sent the tracks to Steve Roach and asked if he had some ideas and if he’d add spacial enhancements (processing, reverb, etc).

I’ve worked with Steve since 1995, releasing over 75 of his electronic/ambient albums on my Projekt Records label. We talk on the phone almost daily about art, experience, his music, my music, and so much more. Steve provided spacial enhancements on the As Lonely As Dave Bowman Pod and Monolith albums, and I played the piano on “In the Eye of Noche” off his 2005 New Life Dreaming. Steve is always creating, and I admire his ability and determination to live in the now of the creative flow.

Steve called the day after receiving the files and said he was instantly compelled to weave in some synth elements to “Blood i + ii,” I took the multi-tracks of Steve’s enhancements and synths and set about restructuring and extending the pieces; his additions provided inspiration to flesh them out, to fulfill the album I had envisioned.

Release Date: August 30 2019.

Click to Join, hit send, and I’ll add you to the list. – Sam

Additional information

Weight N/A



CD in 6-panel Digipak, Black Vinyl LP, Black Vinyl LP + CD, Gold Vinyl LP, Gold Vinyl LP + CD

Release Year


  1. padmin

    From Blauerosen

    The soundtrack of this month finishes with two releases that occupy a dark ambient, post-rock sonic space. They are the albums of Sam Rosenthal with Nick Shadow and Steve Roach and Russian Circles. Blood Year, the new instrumental album by Russian Circles, ‘paints’ the image of an autumnal, nocturnal landscape, at a time of day close to dusk. With heavy rhythms and electrifying, doom metal-inspired guitar riffs and trembles, the 7 tracks of this track will make your mind navigate, with increased determination, within even the more difficult paths of your soul. Enjoy the trip!

    The gesture of history, the new collaborative album of Sam Rosenthal with Steve Roach has a soothing, dark, ethereal melancholy and a great flow between the tracks. We must stress the importance of this collaboration as far the influences of these musicians is concerned. Steve Roach who has two Grammy nominations already, has been inspired by Vangelis and Tangerine Dream, has composed organic music on what concerns its reference point since 1982 and has been constantly enriching his influences throughout his career. Sam Rosenthal formed ethereal band Black Tape for A Blue Girl in 1986 and Projekt in 1983 and Nick Shadow is a talented violinist and member of Black Tape for A Blue Girl, having written and performed in, two songs at the Blood on the Snow EP of the band. The gesture of history creates an ambient, almost disquieting sound that has modern classical characteristics and a peculiar ‘lightness’ to it. Sam Rosenthal has said about this album: “The gesture of history began with an instrumental I created for the Black Tape For A Blue Girl Blood on the snow EP utilizing processed and sequenced viola.” We think that this album will even out the energy that all the previous albums have created and will make you approach the releases of next month with a renewed energy.

  2. padmin

    From Textura

    Sam Rosenthal, who issues gothic-ambient-electronic material under the Black Tape For A Blue Girl alias when not overseeing Projekt operations, receives the primary credit of the three artists involved in The Gesture of History, which makes sense given how it came into being. The album grew out of an instrumental Rosenthal had created for his solo project featuring processed and sequenced viola by Portland-based Nick Shadow. That track, titled “Blood on the Snow,” was soon joined by another iteration, this one similar in mood and texture and featuring Shadow playing live over the material, and then an even longer piece, “The Gesture of History,” featuring sixteen minutes of viola, harmonium, and synthesizer. It dawned on Rosenthal that he had the makings of a great full-length on his hands, yet sensing that more could be done with the material asked longtime associate Steve Roach to add spatial enhancements and synth textures. Having received the newly enhanced files back from Roach, Rosenthal then added finishing touches of his own by restructuring and extending the pieces.

    Yet as key to the release’s creation as Rosenthal clearly was, it’s Shadow’s contributions that are largely responsible for the music’s impact. As the lead instrument, his viola playing dominates the sound field, his organic strings swelling gloriously into a multi-layered forcefield as a reverberating foundation rumbles below. In the opening piece, gauzy synth tones and washes provide an effective counterpoint to the viola, with the interactions between the elements combining to create an engulfing mass of extraordinary beauty. The overriding tone of this electroacoustic material is mournful, supplicating even, and while an introspective dimension is definitely present, the music builds to epic, electronics-enhanced pitches, too: the swirl generated by the three towards the end of “Blood on the Snow I,” for example, has as much in common with shoegaze as ambient. “Blood on the Snow II” immediately distinguishes itself from the first version by opening with Shadow alone, his keening viola multiplied into a small string section and the music’s mood plangent in the extreme. The outpouring of Shadow’s expressions are even more affecting here than they are in the opening treatment.

    While the material flows fluidly from its first to fourth tracks, there are a few production-related changes between the halves, with the composing credit for the opening pair shared by all three participants but the last two credited to Rosenthal alone. Instrumentally, however, there’s only a modest difference between the halves, Roach not credited with synths on the closing pair and Rosenthal adding harmonium to the electronics and processing he’s credited with throughout. To inaugurate the album’s second half, “… And Watch the Galaxy Turning” pairs Shadow’s sustained bowing with a suspended electronic drone for four ambient-dronescaping minutes, after which the titular meditation advances slowly, its sixteen minutes used to maximum effect in the deliberation with which Shadow’s bowed lines unfurl and the sustaining of the material’s dolorous mood expertly handled. Here, perhaps even more than elsewhere, it’s the viola that’s at the forefront and magnificently so. -Ron Schepper

  3. padmin

    From Darkroom

    Alla corte della Projekt di Sam Rosenthal c’è sempre spazio per collaborazioni illustri e di alto profilo, e stavolta è proprio il padrone di casa ad essere impegnato in un lavoro di questo tipo, nello specifico assieme ad un altro colosso della scena come Steve Roach ed al violista Nick Shadow, quest’ultimo già collaboratore degli storici Black Tape For A Blue Girl dello stesso Sam. L’album in esame, costruito intrecciando le linee di viola di Nick con quelle di synth di Steve per poi lasciare a Sam il compito di processare il tutto, prende le mosse da materiale non nuovo per gli estimatori dei Black Tape For A Blue Girl: “Blood On The Snow I” compariva infatti in una versione più concisa nell’EP del marzo 2017 Blood On The Snow, così come “…And Watch The Galaxy Turning” era la seconda parte di “I Close My Eyes And Watch The Galaxy Turning”, brano che apriva l’album di fine 2018 To Touch The Milky Way. Nelle due lunghe parti di “Blood On The Snow” la viola di Nick, decisamente prominente rispetto alle altre tessiture, detta subito linee ariose che si fondono in un flusso squisitamente etereo, dolcemente malinconico ed inevitabilmente para-sinfonico, laddove la più breve “…And Watch The Galaxy Turning” e la conclusiva title-track si dipanano in maniera più dilatata ed emotivamente distaccata, evocando con efficacia mestizia e drammaticità. Completano il quadro una pregevole confezione digipack a sei pannelli ed una produzione degna dei nomi coinvolti, i quali garantiscono agli estimatori dell’ambient tre quarti d’ora di alto livello, suggellati dal marchio di qualità di casa Projekt. -Roberto Alessandro Filippozzi

  4. Reviews Editor

    From Exposé

    Sam Rosenthal is probably better known for his band Black Tape for a Blue Girl, who have been releasing albums since the mid-1980s, or his label Projekt Records specializing in gothic, neo-classical, floating ambient, and darkwave sounds, featuring a roster that includes Lycia, Unto Ashes, Erik Wøllo, Faith and Disease, Autumn’s Gray Solace, Steve Roach, Forrest Fang, and many others. Throughout the years he has released music under his own name, and ‘As Lonely as Dave Bowman,’ plus collaborations with Mark Seelig and VidnaObmana.

    The Gesture of History came to life via a crowdfunding campaign, but copies are still available as of this writing on Projekt’s Bandcamp page, and I would expect downloads to be available for a long time to come. The idea began with a track from Black Tape’s Blood on the Snow EP from 2017, featuring Nick Shadow, a Portland, Oregon based violist who has played on the last few Black Tape releases. The piece was expanded to two lengthy parts, and features additional processing and ‘special enhancement’ by Steve Roach, covering a total length of 25 minutes, expanding out into a beautiful shimmering panoramic soundfield, with Shadow’s viola being the only immediately recognizable instrument, enveloped in warm synth textures, occasionally rising up through the fabric to provide colorful dreamy melodics and intense highlights. The shorter track that follows “…and Watch the Galaxy Turning” was an idea seeded from the opening track on Black Tape’s To Touch the Milky Way album, and leads into the sixteen-plus minute title track, again another floating ambient epic featuring synthesizers, viola, and harmonium, the latter giving the sound a slightly darker texture, with the wandering viola snaking through the shimmering and ever-shifting continuum. In summary, the feeling throughout the four tracks offers a somewhat more restless and energized approach to the ambient electronic sound, and the viola in the mix is vaguely reminiscent of the early Bernard Xolotl releases with Daniel Kobialka. Haunting, beautiful and dreamlike. -Peter Thelen

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