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Spacemusic Reviews

Category: Steve Roach

Miles Richmond& Peter Grenadr w/Steve Roach

POV2

POV2

Miles Richmond & Peter Grenader w/Steve Roach: POV2
Released: 19 June 2020
www.pov-music.com

When the accumulated trauma of modern life gets to be too much, there is POV2 (51’14”). The absorbing take-me-away release so many of us need right now, its effect is dreamy and disorienting in the best way possible. The true force behind this project is the chemistry between Miles Richmond (guitars) and Peter Grenader (various electronics). This duo directs the talents of sonic identities Thighpaulsandra (piano), Theo Travis (alto flute), Martin Shellard (guitar) and Steve Roach (synthesizers) to realize another sonically shapely inventive album. Atmospheric, bracing and effortlessly cool POV2 maintains an impressive focus and momentum through its five tracks. Gently swirling outward the playing is fluent and gorgeous. The designs of the compositions are elegant and gripping – moving as easily through the air as they do into your heart and your mind. Here and there we can make out a reverberant piano, an acoustic guitar, or a chord played on a synthesizer. But these works are so exquisitely balanced in their manipulation of the sound space that one scarcely notices their separate elements. Inside even its lowest midnight is a sincere interiority. Primary structures of minimalism become vivid, then darken into a quiet suspense. Where tensile electric guitar solos reoccur in ever strengthening cycles, rolling ambient loops and washes flow slow in the infinite permutations of theme associated with this approach to music. Characterized by the reiteration of extended phrases and extended sound generation, fragments of flute melodies travel on currents of shimmering steel strings, while reverb laden notes softly emerge and recede. Aligning with the values of good Spacemusic POV2 enables a mental state that runs counter to that of the domain outside of the self. The promise of escape from the sad, the bad and the ordinary is central to the restorative concepts of this manner of music. Lovers of this style know well that Ambient musicians are world-builders of the mind. But just imagine that their principles were also used by the builders of the physical world. With movement being made towards the betterment of humankind, all of us could feel content in the thought that what was possible might still be done.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END18 June 2020

Various Artists: Portals: A Kosmiche Journey through Outer Worlds and Inner Space

Portals

Portals

Various Artists: Portals: A Kosmische Journey through Outer Worlds and Inner Space
Released: 2 June 2020
www.behindtheskymusic.com

Portals: A Kosmische Journey through Outer Worlds and Inner Space (77’41”) presents 13 tracks by a range of potent artists in electronic sound. With each generating its own hot-wired intensity these works originate at the wall outlet, but play out in the head. Charging the hidden activity of our minds with a dreamy forward motion each musician provides a wonderful jaunt across a kinetic synthetic terrain. Maybe a good place to begin this review is with the extensive inventory of gear, which is listed within the 70s retro album art and graphic design. Flaunting Mellotrons, modern and vintage synths, all manner of modular synthesizer systems (either custom built or store bought), and other powered tools – this inquiry will surely invite endless analysis and debate. So it should suffice to say that the true electricity running this music is flowing fast through the veins and brains of the musicians involved. Portals presents realizations by dreamers and builders like Ian Boddy, James Bernard and Steve Roach, right alongside the beat machine energy of Listening Center, Pleasure Corporation and Nigel Mullaney. When the searching sequencer meditations of Tungsten Mountain, Steve Moore and Lisa Bella Donna motor up, coiling surges nest inside long unwinding passages – where we can feel the light and heat of the creative current. In drifting moods at cosmic heights In the Branches + Bluetech and Polypores feel as immense as the heavens, while d’Voxx and Johnny Woods hold forth in the sonic schoolyard with a grounded questing optimism. Portals will certainly fulfill the audience’s appetite for energetic Spacemusic, as we will eagerly be seeking out the next installment in this well-done anthology series. Yet, let us consider also that a good compilation album will indeed present good music, but can function on a higher level as a statement beyond the genre – proclaiming that the power of this music is greater than that of the individual maker. The subject is connection, both electrical and human – which may mean that even in this dark world of ours there is still salvation to be found in each other.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END28 May 2020

Steve Roach: Trance Archeology

Trance Archeology

Trance Archeology

Steve Roach: Trance Archeology
Released: 15 November 2019
www.projekt.com
www.steveroach.com

Steve Roach often finds himself in the borderlands – exploring the edges of Electronic Music, and confirming that it is a genre much bigger than we ever imagined. His album Trance Archeology (73’56”) uses sound to conjure a powerful mood, and tells a story that only each individual listener will know. A mystical landscape of the mind this release provides a fascinating mix of the organic, the tech-tronic, and the irresistible pull of possibility. Although this music is without words, it clearly resonates with hidden voices. Across its eight tracks Trance Archeology goes from mystic incantations to twisting nerve sparks and roiling synthesizer textures. Electrical currents course through this work, as does blood through the body – the muted roar of its rushing textures ever present, but well beneath the surface. At certain points the sound field seems to deconstruct down to a granular realm – which bestows a digital slowing that sinks us back in time. Further in, the tribal viral grooves and pulsing patterns establishes, then moves us across an undiscovered terrain. In an interesting use of looping percussion samples under spacious reverberation and innovative treatments, Roach conceives distances as remote as the moon, and as deep as thought. Beyond this heat there are also thought zones where the feel becomes more settled, locating a less energetic and more reflective atmosphere. These shifts are part of the dynamic equilibrium that is Roach’s goal. Imagining and sounding its way into our minds Trance Archeology will be good for listeners, and even better for dreamers. Cut out against the void it digs to reveal turbulent states, and the temple of sound which is at the core of this musician. The silence that will follow is starkly different than the silence before this album began its spin – as we will then be in a much different space, and a much different peace.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END31 October 2019

Steve Roach: Bloom Ascension

Bloom Ascension

Bloom Ascension

Steve Roach: Bloom Ascension
Released: 30 August 2019
www.projekt.com
www.steveroach.com

Bloom Ascension (41:25) is a most striking creation. Here we find Steve Roach as musically insatiable as ever – and working through a life-long commitment to a distinct creative impulse. This album exemplifies the spare patterns, unwinding energy and low-boil minimalist vibe which propelled his Grammy nominated Molecules of Motion (2018) and Spiral Revelation (2017). A robustly orchestrated work, Bloom Ascension very nearly allows us to hear the musician’s mind at work. Conducting ample instrumental forces Roach combines an innate feel for texture and gesture with his interest in the sonic intensity of Electronic Music and the sensual potential of modular synthesis. Each of the four tracks move high into the air, tracing graceful arcs of mechanical precision. With the rippling counterpoint of pinwheel dancing notes and skittering flows of sparked adventure we spin forward. As the whirling designs add additional mysteries, this work’s pulsing, generating minimalism portends a slow but relentless tide of change. In this subtle shift in perspective, a deep down dark descends – leaving behind a trail of echoing notes and quickening chords. Inspired by a dream, we wake to a prophetic mission – and a view of the world which belongs to us all. Exerting an emotional pull Bloom Ascension culminates with spirits revived. Building a world in volume and density, we are drawn in completely – held in a true electronic moment, and experiencing the invisible symbols of sound.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END29 August 2019

Miles Richmond & Peter Grenader w/Steve Roach: POV

POV

POV

Miles Richmand & Peter Grenader w/Steve Roach: POV
Released: 5 July 2019
www.pov-music.com

In a sound voyage through dream lands, electric guitarist Miles Richmond and synth-smith Peter Grenader, along with Spacemusic icon Steve Roach have realized POV (61’01”) – an album of fluent and unified music. At times a casual ramble, while at others a vast soul-searching ascent, this deeply lived work leaves the light of our mind on, but with its engine slowed considerably. In six substantially structured tracks Richmond & Grenader with Roach trace graceful compositional arcs. Their creations initially progress in a prevailing sense of propulsion, but further in they go deep, down, dark – descending into a twilight territory. Synthesizers and processed guitar all figure into the arrangement. Lushly orchestrated, POV moves calm, warm whirlpools of tones through thickening electronic drones. As emotionally charged liquid lead lines snake over rolling ambient loops and washes, the listener will gain a feel for texture, gesture and atmosphere. With darkness resolving into light, this album softens. In trembling, shadowy chords, and guitar quotes drawn from “No Pussyfooting”, it shines with promise. POV seems meant for us to tour the cosmos, while sitting quietly in a small room… to wander past everything, into shadows forth, and heartless voids and immensities. By listening to this release, you have taken your first steps onto a larger, better realm. This work offers the feeling of being welcomed, in a way that the rest of the world simply cannot.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END1 August 2019

Steve Roach: Molecules of Motion

Molecules of Motion

Molecules of Motion

Steve Roach: Molecules of Motion
Released: 1 June 2018
www.projekt.com
www.steveroach.com

Those who have traveled the farthest have gained the most perspective. Steve Roach invites us to listen with him, granting us privileged access to a hopeful view. His work exerts a force on the imagination, and brings much news from a distant corner of life. The album Molecules of Motion (73’18”) feels new and electric. Excitingly alive, this CD finds its dramatic momentum and action situated in Roach’s sequencers. Focused with full-beam intensity he lends musical energy to the language of ideas. Like many armed sparks sequencers issue tones and tumbling grooves break out of the controlled voltages. In an appreciation of complexity wordless structures explore forces – as the circulating fractals of tone patterns embody greater themes: the speed of life passing, the burden of memory. In an apt blend of vigor and momentum we become bedazzled by the sound of echoing synthesized riffs running on beneath swirling textures of atmosphere. Molecules of Motion has its soft spots too. As Roach occasionally idles the engine, late scenes are filled with serene sonic beauty. This taming is a quieter action, a simpler transaction of sound. Falling into infinity, we are unable to name the upper realm. This release rewards the deep diver – as we find the undercurrent of each track includes a whispered confidence shared with every listener. In streaks, flares, and charges in the open air, each of the four tracks transport our thoughts through space and time – just as easily as they may guide our attention down to territory more microscopic. The imaginary soundworlds Roach creates have an entrancing effect – enfolding such optimism in an era of blank desolation. He never loses sight of the natural wonders he is trying to capture, or of the nebulous mysteries he is attempting to fathom. Molecules of Motion reaffirms our sonic joy as the sustaining life force that it is.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END14 June 2018

Steve Roach: Spiral Revelation

Spiral Revelation

Spiral Revelation

Steve Roach: Spiral Revelation
Released: 20 January 2017
www.projekt.com
www.steveroach.com

At every outing, the task of artists like Steve Roach is to craft a new realm entirely out of sound. His album Spiral Revelation (63’00”) offers six electronic realizations of such discovery – meant to stimulate the imagination as well as hurry the interior current within. From the simmer of pulsing synthesized bleeps and soft echoing percussive patter, to chilling angular abstractions of sustained musical thought, Spiral Revelation deepens quietly through hinterlands that call out to be explored. With minimalist sequencer grooves giving rhythm to the surface of sound, patterns echo out across vividly imagined distances. This world seems in a constant state of motion. With everything moving, everything centered, the air seems to ring like a cold struck bell. Conjuring a thick atmosphere as if from a hushed spell, deeply breathing chords stack up and sustain. Shifts in emotional temperature result out of Roach’s exploration of sound mass, as the kaleidoscopic cross link of repeating motifs propel the listener along a helix of syncopated tones. The energy arcing through this work is an appeal to the imagination – where we may ponder the mysteries of the universe within and without. Traveling in place is the promise of all Spacemusic – and this Spiral Revelation aspires to permeate the illimited distance of both our interior and exterior space.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 6 July 2017

Jeffrey Koepper: Konnektions

Konnektions

Konnektions

Jeffrey Koepper: Konnektions
Released: 12 September 2015
www.jeffreykoepper.com

It is so odd to hear its seasoned veterans tell us that, “There is no future in Rock n’ Roll, only recycled past.” Thankfully, the kind of work Jeffrey Koepper adventures in harbors not-yet-exhausted possibilities. On Konnektions (71’28”) he dives in, dedicating deep energy to setting and getting his new musical mood just right. Its eight tracks, realized using slabs of old synthesizers and tone-tool modular contraptions, gradually dazzle us. As each piece opens, we become primed to expect complexity – and find every one presenting its own entrancing deployment of echoing sequencer variations. Spiraling through time the rows of motoring notes act to gradually mesmerize the listener. Patterns advance, recede, lengthen and contract through their octaves in a tripping mechanical choreography. These intriguing variations provide Konnektions with a unique feel – somewhere between the academics of Minimalism and the expansiveness of Spacemusic. Koepper’s intricately pulsing ornamentation becomes somewhat softened through the addition of ethereal electronic harmonies. While dramatic chords offer a spacey coolness to the mighty pulse, this tightened structure brings our minds to the verge of revelation. Pop music works best if you do not listen too closely. Koepper’s music is the opposite, asking the listener to reflect on the ways and power of sound. While our hearts alight with the longing to be swept away, our thoughts turn to the concept and the sensation of sound. Some are out there just hoping to be discovered, while others seem like strange new things waiting to be invented. With every new album release Koepper, and his cult of sonics, venture into the challenging realm of technology and creative impulse – in a questing, ever-roving engagement with Electronic Music.

– Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END3 September 2015

Steve Roach: Etheric Imprints

Etheric Imprints

Etheric Imprints

Steve Roach: Etheric Imprints
Released: 12 July 2015
www.projekt.com
www.steveroach.com

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/STAR’S END13 August 2015)

Steve Roach: Skeleton Keys

Skeleton Keys

Skeleton Keys

Steve Roach: Skeleton Keys
Released: 26 May 2015
www.projekt.com
www.diophantine.net
www.steveroach.com

While Steve Roach was recording his album Empetus (1986), did he have occasion to contemplate what of his future self was within him right then? Nearly thirty years later, listening to Skeleton Keys (73’57”) we may find traces of this past work, as well as a touch of the prior man himself. While Skeleton Keys may be compared in both cause and effect to a few earlier releases, it does again find Roach having great success at exploring the expansive promise of this musical sort. Converting electrical current into music, his tone tools produce myriad lines of consistent metrical pattern – which our listening minds integrate into a unified sonic structure. Creating a driving pulse out of multiple rows of recurring notes, our emotions intensify with each growing cycle. As luminous open chords suggest a sense of infinite space, our thoughts blend with the rushing, breathless arrangements. Synchronized sequencers pump out a protean array of throbbing rhythms and echoing tones, and charge brawny oscillators to dart out, in, up and down intervals and scales in fascinating, minimalistic shifts. This machinery lends Roach the remarkable ability to manipulate volume, bulk and dimension, and therefore the unique power felt in each of Skeleton Keys‘ eight tracks. To fully enjoy this music the listener must be curious – not just with how it was made, or by whom, but with what happens when we allow ourselves to momentarily disappear into it.

(Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END9 July 2015)