Places Beyond: The Lost Pieces 4
Synthtopia
April 2005


Steve Roach is one of the most prolific ambient/space music artists. His pace exceeds the traditional music industry release rate, so he releases his work on several labels, including his own Timeroom Editions.

Working at this rapid pace results in some music that doesn't fit neatly into a preconceived album concept. To get this music heard, Roach has released several collections of "lost pieces", bringing together works that are not parts of complete works, but are nevertheless complete themselves.

PLACES BEYOND is the fourth release in this series. It would be easy to be skeptical about a release like this. By the fourth one, how good can these "extras" be?

Surprisingly good, actually. PLACES BEYOND doesn't provide the coherent listening experience of CD's like MYSTIC CHORDS & SACRED SPACES or WORLD'S EDGE. On the other hand, the pieces are woven together in more subtle ways through the sounds choices and approaches that make up Roach's style.

The pieces on PLACES BEYOND are from 1997 to 2004, and listeners may hear echoes of some of his recent CD's. The result is an interesting record that provides both an introduction to the many flavors of his recent music, and a collection of great tracks for hardcore Roach fans.

"Distant Signals" starts the CD off. It's a drifting ambient piece that explores washes of sound in ambient space. While Roach often explores darker ambient space, "Distant Signals" has a blissful feel to it, without using any cliches to sound upbeat.

"Trancefusion" and "Serpent's Birth" are rhythmic collaborations with synthesist/percussionist Vir Unis. The tracks have a darker feel, but also have a real drive to them because of the way they combine sequences and looped and live percussion.

"Resolution Point" seems to mix many facets of Roach's work. Roach frequently uses sounds that evolve and change very slowly over time, and these are prominent here. Shamanic percussion sounds and even ambient guitar are woven in, too. Towards the end, the track moves into the abstract drone soundscapes that Roach has explored more frequently in recent years.

"Calm Before the Storm" is another collaboration, this time with Vidna Obmana. Obmana and Roach work with evolving synth strings, percussion and natural sounds, creating a ambient soundscape that may immerse some listeners in another world, and attune other listeners to the sounds around them.

"Slow Rapture" and "Light of Day" return listeners to the territory Roach created on MYSTIC CHORDS & SACRED SPACES or THE MAGNIFICENT VOID. Roach's music in this style can leave reviewers tongue-tied, because it pushes the limits of what many people would consider music. The tracks are free of any clear harmonic progression, melody and rhythms, making discussing them a little bit like dancing about architecture. To these ears, Roach is echoing the rise and fall of sounds in natural landscapes. These electronic soundscapes explore constantly shifting textures within set palette of sounds, similar to the constant change of the natural sounds of the wind or insect drones.

In his liner notes, Roach says that "Contained... Sustained" combines two impressions of the desert, from different time periods. There's no explicit "desert" sounds here, but it echoes his desert-themed music going back as far as his WESTERN SPACES release.

Steve Roach's PLACES BEYOND is an interesting collection of ambient/space music that would be a good introduction to his recent work for anyone unfamiliar with his releases of the last few years. Even though ambient music has almost become a mainstream genre, there are still very few artists doing any thoughtful work in this area. Roach is one of them, and on "Distant Signals" he showcases his unique ear for creating landscapes of sound.


Places Beyond: The Lost Pieces 4

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Places Beyond: The Lost Pieces 4
Steve Roach
2004 Timeroom Editions 14 (CD)
Reviewed by e|i magazine, Synthtopia, Wind and Wire

With this 4th edition of the Lost Pieces series at hand, it's clear more than ever that these unique releases seem to have a curious way of taking on an interconnected life of their own. An undercurrent of congruency between the pieces is consistently apparent in these projects and in this release, even though the pieces were created over a longer span of time and under unique and seemingly disparate situations. As a starting point, I will draw from a large pool of unreleased and lost tracks. It's like shuffling through a large box of puzzle pieces looking for the shapes and colors from which to begin telling a particular story that I'm discovering along the way. It's very much a mosaic, formed out of the richness that each piece or soundworld passage holds on its own. From there the combined resonance of the pieces starts to take over and fully reveals itself as a whole. Making the outcome more than simply a collection of pieces, this kind of process results in a structure, theme, and sonic storyline that could not be arrived at through other routes traveled on a tighter timeframe with specific intentions. -- Steve Roach, November 2004

Distant Signals (1999) -- This piece was originally created during the time of the LIGHT FANTASTIC project. It was eventually released on a Various Artists collection on the Groove label from The Netherlands. Strangely the finished CD had a problem with the duplication master and this track was cut off at mid-point. It's all here now.

Trancefusion (2000) -- I created this piece in the Timeroom around the time of the BLOOD MACHINE release with Vir Unis. It's a weave of fractal grooves, short rhythmic elements blended to create a longer complex rhythmical Structure. It first appeared on the Electric Body video release and on a limited-run compilation CD through Sequences magazine in the UK. Versions were also performed live around this time.

Serpent's Birth (2000) -- Another piece from around the time of BLOOD MACHINE with Vir Unis. We recorded a large collection of pieces that never made it onto the final release because of the time constraints and final shape of the release.

Resolution Point (1999) -- This was a piece recorded especially for a multi-artist compilation titled CONVERGENT EVOLUTION on the now defunct Greenhouse Music label. Part of the hybrid groove was created with some rhythmic source elements from Byron Metcalf.

Calm Before the Storm (2000) -- This was recorded live with Vidna Obmana at his studio in Belgium as we were preparing to perform at the 2000 E-Live Festival in the Netherlands.

Slow Rapture (1997) -- A post THE MAGNIFICENT VOID space piece created for THE AMBIENT ECLIPSE, a multi-artist compilation on the now-expired Mirage label.

Contained... Sustained (1999/2000) -- This is a meld of two desert impressions, the first from around the time of THE AMBIENT EXPANSE and the second part from sometime after CORE.

Light of Day (2001) -- The exact origin of this lost piece is unknown, as it was found unmarked on one of many CD-R spools from over a 4-year period. I have a vague memory of the original space being created around the time of the CORE release, then later expanded upon around the MYSTIC CHORDS & SACRED SPACES project. A few final brush strokes were added just before mastering in October 2004.
 
1. Distant SignalsMP37:04 
2. TrancefusionMP312:57 
3. Serpent's BirthMP37:49 
4. Resolution PointMP311:58 
5. Calm Before the StormMP310:10 
6. Slow RaptureMP37:29 
7. Contained... SustainedMP35:30 
8. Light of DayMP39:35 

2, 3 with Vir Unis; 5 with Vidna Obmana



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