2. In Present Space 16:01
3. Reflection in Ascension 25:42
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A Soul Ascends is a majestic, deeply moving sonic suspension drawn from the essence of Steve Roach’s visionary ambient/electronic music. A vast and intimate holding-the-space of heart-centered serenity and compassion, the album couples the body to the eternal flow of a vaporizing weightlessness — back to a divine nothingness, the Tabula Rasa where everything began.
Created at Steve’s Timehouse Studio over seven days in mid-April 2020, this music was sourced from and created for this unequaled moment in our lifetime. The three movements express the delicate and profound innerplay of contemplative space, tone and time. The expansive, lush timbral embrace has an undeniable connection to the DNA of Steve’s classic-era Structures from Silence and Quiet Music releases.
This music speaks in a language all its own: a life in consolidation from which the next breath activates. The space reaches for you, lifts you out, and draws you in like an enveloping etheric presence. This sense of an omnipresent dimension of tranquility and transcendence is the heart of A Soul Ascends.
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. His massive catalog of landmark recordings includes Structures from Silence, Dreamtime Return and Mystic Chords & Sacred Spaces. Drawing from a vast, unique and deeply personal authenticity, his albums are fueled by the momentum of a lifetime dedicated to the soundcurrent. Steve is an artist operating at the pinnacle of his artform, driven by a passion and unbroken focus enhancing the emotive, soul-stirring depth of his music.
Usciva lo scorso luglio questo album di Steve Roach, ennesimo capitolo di una carriera costellata da tantissime realizzazioni contraddistinte da una qualità sempre molto elevata. A Soul Ascends rimane ancorato allo stile ambient e meditativo dell’autore americano, che si è andato ad affinare col tempo raggiungendo livelli memorabili che lo hanno fatto diventare un maestro del genere. I tre lunghi brani riescono comunque a distinguersi da altre uscite di Roach, grazie ad un connubio sorprendente tra ispirazione e capacità di gestire i suoni ed intessere le melodie. A differenza di tanto materiale simile, ci troviamo dinnanzi ad architetture che si muovono in moto perpetuo, i suoni fluttuano letteralmente senza incorrere in loop o ripetizioni ma muovendosi in un percorso che non vede ripetizioni, quasi fosse una luce che procede nel buio.
Al pari i suoni non vedono stacchi né sovrapposizioni, tutto è compatto ma sembra espandersi in direzioni diverse, propagarsi a macchia in toni diversi sempre uniti tra loro, sorta di fonte audio impalpabile che si stende in direzioni diverse mantenendo un’uniformità. I toni hanno un flusso sonoro che sfugge in modo intelligente alla sinfonicità trasformandosi in dilatazioni melodiche molteplici, fatto che rende tutto unico, difficilmente accostabile ad altri prodotti di area meditativa o new age. Lavoro indubbiamente maestoso, tra i migliori licenziati da Roach negli ultimi anni e punto imprescindibile per chiunque voglia confrontarsi con l’ampia discografia di questo compositore. Edito in un digipak essenziale, ma – confezione a parte – probabilmente la miglior resa audio si ha nei formati file digital di alta qualità. Rating: 8 out of 10 -Michele Viali
L’ultima creazione di Steve Roach e un’immersione siderale tra i labrinti dello spazio-tempto: A Soul Ascends. Una sinfonia eterea ed epica allo stesso tempo, un’opera divisa in tre parti chi si susseguono senza soluzione di continuita. Registrato durante sette giorni e sette nottie dello scorso mese di aprile, A Soul Ascends mostra la nutra piu intima e meditativa del musicista americano. Bastano pochi secondi e il respiro sembra potersi accordare alla melodia che disegna rotte stellari su The Radiant Return, il brano di ben trentadue minuti che apre il cd. Il tema centrale si ripete cambiandoforma e colore, guidando lentamente i neuroni tra le ombra in un Viaggio Di Luce. -Roberto Mandolini
From Galactic Travels
Top 20 for August 2020!
Best of Ambient Music on Bandcamp: July 2020
Though typically beatless, the music of Steve Roach is imbued with resonating rhythms. In the absence of sequenced drums or the occasional acoustic accompaniment, Roach keeps pace with the gradual undulation of robust, polyphonic synths. On his majestic and massive new album A Soul Ascends, Roach utilizes that same organically hypnotic pattern that indelibly marked his legacy as an ambient pioneer with 1984’s Structures from Silence. But whereas that release had an underlying hopefulness in its rising harmonies, A Soul Ascends is more ominous, sharper synths puncturing the glacial background on “Reflection in Ascension” like light bleeding through a screen. That discomfort reflects Roach’s mindset when creating the album in mid-April, seeking to capture the intense solitude and contemplation of life under quarantine. But these moments of discord only reinforce the centering strength of the slow-moving synths that undergird his compositions; on “The Radiant Return,” shimmering notes melt into the warmth of a low, central tone. Like an ocean liner moving through calm waters, it feels monumental and unshakable. -Arielle Gordon
From Overgrown Path
No reference is made to the (Farewell) theme in the final movement of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony by composer/producer Steve Roach in the notes for his new album A Soul Ascends. But both works take the listener on a similar transcendental journey, albeit in very different ways. Mahler deploys a symphony orchestra in all its sonic glory for his masterpiece, while a century later Steve Roach crafts his music from synthesizers and sequencers.
A Soul Ascends is important because it reaches the giddy creative heights of Steve’s other ambient masterwork Structures from Silence. But it is even more important because it is new classical music for these troubled times. Steve crafted the album over seven solitary days of inventive white heat at his remote desert Timehouse Studio in Arizona while the world was entering lockdown. The title and a brief dedication defer to a farewell theme. But this is not a farewell to life: it is a farewell to a way of life eradicated by the global pandemic. Life will never be the same, and classical music will never be the same. A Soul Ascends is the harbinger of a new paradigm – created in isolation using new technologies, disseminated by more new technology, all with little regard for live performance possibilities.
Let us try to slay once and for all the old canard that electronic music is not classical musical. My definition of classical music is any music which has a primary purpose other than to entertain. Pluralism is central to the new musical pardigm, and hankering for the old paradigm – designer concert halls, jet set music making, celebrity maestros, etc – is futile. Carl Nielsen declared “Give us something else, give us something new, indeed for Heaven’s sake give us rather the bad, and let us feel that we are still alive”. Steve Roach’s A Soul Ascends is most definitely not bad. But it is something new which in these deeply troubled times let’s us feel we are still alive. In this new dark age we must never lose touch with the rapture of being alive, as Joseph Campbell explains in The Power of Myth:
“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”
reviews editor –
A review from Exposé
In the four decades that Steve Roach has been making music, he has released close to 150 albums, both solo and in collaboration, maybe even more that I’m not aware of, and each new release has some vestigial connection to all that have gone before it, while also adding new elements that take on new directions – sometimes the changes are bold and sometimes incremental, and even other times reach back even further to elaborate on ideas that were committed to the lost and found, to be worked further, branched out and blossomed into new ideas. That may be the case with A Soul Ascends, which seems to draw on energies and emotions going back to some of his earliest works, calling forth several of the expansive and spacious works from the mid-1980s, with a new glowing warmth that establishes a certain mark of the present. A Soul Ascends, by its title seems to have a connection to some personal loss, but that’s not something that is enforced on the listener; in fact on its surface the music here is quite beautiful and angelic, slowly morphing and breathing as it goes forward in an unstoppable quest for inward tranquility. It consists of three extended movements; the first is the longest at just over thirty minutes, “The Radiant Return” moves patterns of successive colors, shades, shadows and brilliance slowly across a floating sonic canvas, where deep textures and soaring brilliances meet and overlap, like filters that interchangeably obscure and colorize the light of the sun, moon or stars. The second movement “In Present Space” is similar to the first, though at about half its length, continuing at roughly the same glacial pace, but occasionally fades to complete blackness. The third and final movement “Reflection In Ascension” is another long one, opening up some new textures via subtle sequences blending with the slow-morphing sounds introduced in the earlier movements. Like many of Roach’s works, one might get some extended mileage by putting this on in end-to-end repeat mode for an all day or all night marathon.
A Review from Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 16 July 2020
With fluctuating designs and feelings Steve Roach tenderly explores questions of connection and loss. His A Soul Ascends (73’57”) follows traditional Spacemusic markers first laid down on Structures From Silence, and achieves even more expressiveness and soul searching than his 1984 classic. In this chilled slow spark Roach finds his way to the serene center – going deep down dark, then into otherworldly calm. The long melodic lines of A Soul Ascends extends the sound-field with beautiful synthesizer tones and a slowly building ethereal energy. Inside arrangements of circulating electronic forms and rightly crafted timbres, unforced tones exert their own meaning. Shimmering sounds combine into a sweeping resonant unity, then fade out – replaced by an equally rare airy tone zone. As the music becomes dense we sense the emergence of a slow sequencer pattern. The interplay of staggered notes and breathing synthesizers reinforce the air of discovery. But this building ethereal energy provides a setting for contemplation – which we must make our own way to. While a chorus of oscillators swell from a sombre murmur to pealing resolve, we find colliding chords can coexist – as this work is dissolving and becoming all at once. At times luxurious and silvery, then turbulent and moody, the three gently shifting ambient realizations open up space and fill it with sound. Listeners will need to align with these sonic pleasures before finding a reassuring calm. In its succession of colors, atmosphere and feelings we may feel the past, trembling in the present – and should not worry about some unreachable spiritual world, we are already in our own. Above a gently broken silence A Soul Ascends.
From EER Music
I have been reviewing Roach’s fine ambient music for many, many years. I can easily affirm that this is some of his very best work I have heard in a long time. It will serve as a hallmark release, being a landmark referred to in future reviews for the years yet to come. It is indeed his signature sound, a fluid, predominately non-rhythmic — ever-morphing set of soundscapes that are each deeply introspective. Some mildly sculpted, rhythmic elements do appear in the final piece; “Reflection in Ascension”.
I immediately found it overall to be quite a relaxing listen yet remaining deeply engaging. It is a non-repetitive flow of evocative synth pad imagery that evolves without any immediate passage of time being noticed. Simply said, it is a sublime journey, a serene wandering ascension. Being the artist he is, Roach has managed to sound like himself but this release still offers all new territory. You will find Roach dives into deep registers often on this release, really rumbling the sonic foundations. Thus, it is a pleasure to experience the familiar yet with a novel twist. His working of sound layers into one another is stellar. I will be listening to this A Soul Ascends release over and over, just like I did with his Structures from Silence long ago.
Bravo, Steve. Highly recommended for all ambient music fans everywhere. -John W. Patterson