Quiet Music & The Dream Circle
by Mike McLatchey, Exposé
The latest reissues of Steve Roach give an opportunity to see the evolution of one of his styles, that of the long-form ambient drift. The QUIET MUSIC series was comprised of three, roughly 60-minute cassettes when they were first released. A CD was also reissued of the QUIET MUSIC 2 cassette in 1988. This new version is an expansion of the QUIET MUSIC 2 reissue with a second disc added on that, unfortunately, does not complete the reissue of the entire cassette set. Half of the two-part suite from QUIET MUSIC 1 called "The Green Place" is missing, and the full version of "Dreaming and Sleep" is still replaced by an edit. The "Complete" in the title implies that these missing elements are not currently being considered for reissue. For all the music in the series, silence is the basis of the music, making it difficult to review in detail. These are perhaps Roach's most Eno-like works and reflect a much more melodic and, dare I say it, pretty music, than the more abstract and frontier-treading sounds he creates today. All of the music rests on pillowy clouds, chords floating up muted and angelic, but all within earshot of the void of silence, a theme that Roach would return to again and again. As the song titles suggest, such as "Sleep and Dreaming," this is ideal music to back up the late hours, sounds that you may not notice ephemerally at a low volume sink into your subconscious memory and dreaming.
THE DREAM CIRCLE was a limited edition digipak CD (reissued in jewel box) of 2500, signed and numbered, from about eight years later. It was, in some ways, a follow-up to "To The Threshold of Silence" from WORLD'S EDGE and, at the time, was his longest ambient soundscape to date. A progression can be seen from STRUCTURES FROM SILENCE and the QUIET MUSIC cassettes through "Looking For Safety" from DREAMTIME RETURN and "Threshold," that Steve's drifts have gotten more surreal, less overtly sweet, with more detail given to atmospheric construction. At nearly 74 minutes, this is ideal for sleeping, but is also fascinating at daytime volumes, the depth and diversity of the sounds that create these sonic paintings provide ear-catching complexity. A treasure that was a stepboard to his classic THE MAGNIFICENT VOID, the reissue of this title is warmly welcomed.