Spacemusic Reviews

Tag: Steve Roach

Steve Roach: Skeleton Keys

Skeleton Keys

Skeleton Keys

Steve Roach: Skeleton Keys
Released: 26 May 2015

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)

Steve Roach: Structures From Silence

Structures From Silence

Structures From Silence

Structures From Silence by Steve Roach
Released: 13 April 2014

Structures From Silence (58’59”) was first released in 1984, on cassette and LP, and later on CD, and then as a download. It was re-issued by the Projekt label in 2001 and again in 2014, this time with the original album having been re-mastered and packaged as one of a triple disc set – to mark the 30th anniversary of this classic’s first issue.

Although numerous long-form electronic pieces by the likes of Klaus Schulze, Michael Stearns, Robert Rich and Iasos pre-date Structures From Silence this work by Steve Roach achieved icon status. It is remembered so fondly by those who heard it back in 1984 (and onward), often remaining in playing devices at the ready, and becoming a kind of everyday ritual for the listener’s personal enrichment. Although this field of music filled quickly and broadly throughout the 1980s, a number of listeners did not move beyond Structures From Silence. Having formed such a strong attachment to the three pieces held within they felt no desire to further explore the genre as this musical journey filled their needs quite well. For others Structures From Silence was an inspiring introduction to an ever widening field of innovative music, leading to years of the expansion of their music libraries and a deepened understanding of musical expression.

The first two compositions, “Reflections in Suspension” and “Quiet Friend”, are fascinating slow songs – softly sounding through the silent night, and serve as the perfect prelude to the title track. “Structures From Silence” builds slowly because its author is constructing a different kind of world. Issuing cool notes as in a round silvery beam, it is warm and diffuse along the edges but pinpoint clear at the center. The curving contours easily engage us as Roach combines aspects of repetition taken from minimalist music with the emotion, atmosphere and texture of New Age, and comes up with a most intriguing form of true Ambient Music. It turned out to be a timeless combination – demonstrating that a whisper may have more power than a loud voice. With its recurring synthesized string chord motion, harmony and contrast interplay to great effect. Using the analogue instruments and recording equipment of its era this realization holds up quite well against our current day trends and aesthetics. It is the rarest of creations, a perfect work. When an audience is lifted to a different place they will not forget who took them there. For many this person is Steve Roach. Structures From Silence may for some simply be a way to chill-out, but others find the opportunity to transcend the physical world – in a metaphor for each drawn breath, and the profound calm we feel at the notice of this most basic function.

(Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END20 March 2014)