by Phil Derby, Dreams Word
Steve Roach’s recent releases have heavily emphasized lots of loops and heavy beats, a far cry from the ambient, expansive realms he tended to explore on releases prior. I have always really enjoyed his more floating works, so I was quite pleased to hear a return to form on ATMOSPHERIC CONDITIONS. This very ambient music would fit well alongside his THE DREAM CIRCLE CD. In fact, the closing track, "Two Rivers Dreaming," sounds almost too similar to THE DREAM CIRCLE, but it is such a pleasant musical space to relax and reflect in, that most Roach fans probably won’t mind.
Technically divided into five tracks, the disc is really one continuous piece of ambience, and really only has three titles. Opening in fine form with the 22+ minute epic "Underground Clouds Over A Secret Grotto," this is Steve Roach at his deep, cavernous, haunting best. Very much in the same sonic territory as THE MAGNIFICENT VOID, the low end on this is just incredible, perfect for testing subwoofers. Things gradually lighten as it continues, with bubbly, percolating effects and brighter, shimmering sounds. The music paints a picture of an underground jungle, with deep chirping echoes amidst a backdrop of sweeping ambient soundscapes. "In the Heart of Distant Horizons" comprises tracks two and three, but to me they really combine with "Two Rivers Dreaming," which is tracks four and five, into a single, albeit long, musical theme. I definitely get the sense of track five coming full circle to where the music was at the start of track two. In between, there are subtle changes which do lend themselves to the way the CD is indexed. For example, though track three is still considered to be "In The Heart...," it adds some subtle rhythms that are not in the first part of the piece. This is the only track with any sense of rhythm, but it is still very soothing. This is far from the territory explored on most of his other recent releases. ATMOSPHERIC CONDITIONS is Steve Roach at his ambient best, sculpting wonderful masses of seemingly formless sound pillows to lay back and reflect upon.