by Candi Brammer, Ambient Musings
TEXTURE MAPS (The Lost Pieces Vol. 3) offers a selection of previously unreleased Steve Roach material recorded from 1987 to 2003. Paired with LIFE SEQUENCE, the similar artwork and coinciding release dates may seem to suggest parallel counterparts of one another. However both works each represent unique perimeters on the multifaceted musical-scope of Steve Roach. Unlike the presto movements and electronic sequencing of LIFE SEQUENCE -- a gaze into Roach's improvisational beginnings - TEXTURE MAPS literally maps a continued evolution in sound, boasting beautifully longform atmospherics and flowing textures. Those who are familiar with past Roach works such as STRUCTURES FROM SILENCE, THE MAGNIFICENT VOID and QUIET MUSIC will recognize hallmark vestiges of these works and others having been etched into the canvas of these drifting passages.
Composed in 1987, "Gray and Purple" emerges slowly with angelic tones that drift above deep, brass-like drones. One can almost sense the genesis of MYSTIC CHORDS & SACRED SPACES, later released in 2003; it's like peering inside the cocoon from which that four-disc epic would later emerge. Seamlessly slipping into a void is the appropriately named "Artifact Ghost." Roach describes this piece as "spiraling," and like so, spectral shades and synth-shadows swirl amidst a dark calm. "Spiral Triptych" is a three-part movement, the first part continuing in the same vain as the preceding track before shifting into a rather momentary minimal phase. The third movement is evocative of EARLY MAN in my mind (minus the rhythmic tribal textures) although perhaps the similarity is of a more 'melodic' sort. Everything about THE MAGNIFICENT VOID, such as the feeling of being sucked into a huge vacuum in the stark blackness of outer space, can be felt on "Bottomless 2." Not surprisingly, Roach states in the liner notes that this piece was "poured from a similar material that made THE MAGNIFICENT VOID and created around this same time." A transparent light emanates through "Quiet Sun," before merging into "Soul Light," where the 'spiraling' sensation takes effect again. These last two pieces were recorded shortly after the completion of MYSTIC CHORDS & SACRED SPACES, and while avowing a similar direction they feel more weightless and gossamer. At roughly 11:30 into the final piece, what sounds like a phantom carousel materializes from the dissolve...and my, is the spinning sensation deliriously spine-chilling! Trickling bell-tones and ghostly feminine wails linger about until close, making for one of the most beautiful atmospheric takes from Roach I've ever heard.
Baring many hallmarks of time, TEXTURE MAPS is an essential recording to own if you're a fan of more minimal, spacious sounds - and especially if you're a fan of Roach, whose crafting and assembling of these sounds with up-most proficiency has kept him ahead of the game for so long. Although the pieces here were gathered from various passages in time and often evoke past works, the shifts between tracks are not only subtle, but are likely to go completely unnoticed, unless one briefly forwards through the tracks and captures only small portions of each. I have found myself playing this disc many a night to drift away to and highly recommend it for the same!