Texture Maps
by Candi Brammer, Ambient Musings
January 2004


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!


Texture Maps

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Texture Maps
The Lost Pieces Vol. 3

Steve Roach
2003 Timeroom Editions 11 (CD)
Reviewed by Bert Strolenberg, Ambient Musings, Ambient Visions, Deep Listenings, e|i magazine, Ping Things, Sonic Curiosity, Wind and Wire

This purely atmospheric set maps the shift from the tonal serenity found on Steve's earlier work towards the harmonically rich and contrasted souldworlds of late. The centerpiece of TEXTURE MAPS is a pivotal 20-minute piece recorded the same week as "Looking for Safety" from DREAMTIME RETURN. Titled "Grey and Purple", it's a genuine lost piece from 1987 that foreshadows Steve's sonic evolution as later realized on THE MAGNIFICENT VOID and ultimately MYSTIC CHORDS & SACRED SPACES.

This edition of Lost Pieces has a consistent atmospheric feel throughout, unlike THE LOST PIECES (Vol. 1) and TRUTH & BEAUTY (Vol. 2) which mixed the dynamic and more atmospheric pieces together.

1. "Gray and Purple" (1987) -- This pivotal piece was recorded live in the studio the same week as "Looking for Safety" from DREAMTIME RETURN. In listening now, I can feel how it was forecasting the oncoming contrasted harmonic climates that would become most realized on THE MAGNIFICENT VOID and MYSTIC CHORDS & SACRED SPACES. The shift from the serene nature of QUIET MUSIC and STRUCTURES FROM SILENCE is clear on this recording.

2. "Artifact Ghost" (1993) -- This atmosphere has continued to haunt me from the moment it was made. It first was heard supporting the momentum of the rhythmic forms on ARTIFACTS and WELL OF SOULS. This pure version was used as a "walk in" atmosphere for many concerts around this time. While it's around nine minutes on this CD, the original length was 90 minutes. I found the circular - spiraling - aspect of this steady state space especially effective when it was played in continuous low volume loop playback in the house for many days and nights around this time.

3, 4, 5. "Spiral Triptych" (2001) -- These three interconnected spaces are part of a large collection of unreleased zones that shaped the direction of the MYSTIC CHORDS & SACRED SPACES project early on.

6. "Bottomless 2" (1999) -- An alternate mix of a piece featured on a compilation for the Hypnos label. It is poured from a similar material that made THE MAGNIFICENT VOID, and created around this same time.

7, 8. "Quiet Sun" and "Soul Light" (2003) -- These two spaces are a few of the many created live in the studio after MYSTIC CHORDS & SACRED SPACES was complete. The creative momentum continued pulling me deeper in as I was coming back up to the surface upon the official conclusion of the four Mystic CD's. The pieces kept coming, and this one in particular feels like a fitting bookend in relationship to the opening piece from 1987, "Gray and Purple".
 
1. Gray and PurpleMP321:14 
2. Artifact Ghost (edit)MP38:46 
3. Spiral TriptychMP315:24 
6. Bottomless 2MP37:03 
7. Quiet SunMP35:29 
8. Soul LightMP315:09 



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