Destination Beyond
by Anthony D'Amico, Brainwashed
November 2009


Steve Roach's 1984 opus STRUCTURES FROM SILENCE has been a staple of my record collection for ages, but it has been about eight years since I last checked out anything new from him. Although he can sometimes be a bit too earthy for my taste, DESTINATION BEYOND shows that Steve has not yet abandoned the spacier side that produced THE MAGNIFICENT VOID, nor have his powers begun to ebb at all. I wish I had been paying more attention, as he seems to be in the midst of a rather fruitful creative period.

DESTINATION BEYOND consists of a single 71-minute track that is very much a kindred spirit to Brian Eno's Apollo, owing largely to its shimmering washes of warm synths and general spacious and shadowy atmosphere. Notably, there is not much else to it, merely a slow bass pulse, a burbling arpeggio, and some skittering percussion. Also, it does not unfold into multiple movements or sections: the drifting, spectral tones that open the piece remain central for its entire duration. Nevertheless, it all works extremely well due to Roach's clear mastery of the form. While nothing new ever appears, the song's sparse components subtly wax and wane in relation to one another throughout and it all flows seamlessly and organically, which is likely the result of Roach's insistence on playing in real-time and eschewing most contemporary computer-editing practices. It almost sounds like he is manipulating how each individual note dissolves and decays, which would require an almost inhuman degree of meticulousness (but probably would not surprise me).

Roach seems completely unconcerned with and uninfluenced by prevailing trends in drone and ambient music: there is nothing here that indicates that it could not have been released in the early '80s. While certainly indebted to Eno, Klaus Schulze, and Tangerine Dream for his original inspiration, Steve's biggest influence always seems to be himself. I think that is probably an admirable trait, but it is an interesting contrast to the trajectory of his erstwhile collaborator Vidna Obmana (Dirk Serries), who has found a new generation of fans as Fear Falls Burning. Roach seems decidedly unlikely to deliver any such surprises himself, but the reward for his steadfastness seems to be a sophistication and elegance that is uniquely his own (the rewards here are greater for connoisseurs of the form, I believe).

DESTINATION BEYOND is a very good album. It's hard for me completely fall in love with it, as it is a bit too calm and edgeless (despite some foreboding undertones) for my taste, but I am nonetheless extremely impressed with the virtuosity of Roach textural juggling act. Also, it is a pretty excellent and deserving addition to the space music canon, certainly holding its own against Roach's revered precursors.


Destination Beyond

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Destination Beyond
Steve Roach
2009 Projekt PRO235 (CD)
Reviewed by Brainwashed, Electroambient Space, Hypnagogue, MusicTAP, Signal to Noise, Sonic Immersion

Blending the two core aspects of his work, Steve ramps up for the fall of 2009 with the stunningly expansive DESTINATION BEYOND. This all-new release combines immersive atmospheric harmonic zones (like those recently experienced on DYNAMIC STILLNESS) into the setting of spiraling patterns and hypnotic rhythms (similar to those found on ARC OF PASSION). Perfectly blending these two sonic qualities over the course of the continuous 71-minute piece, the flowing soundscapes on DESTINATION BEYOND propel the mood to a mesmerizing state which is unique from any of Steve's pure rhythmless immersive work while achieving a similar sensation that works perfectly in repeat playback mode.

DESTINATION BEYOND pushes electronic music to its highest level, living and breathing in the immediacy in which it was created. The album flows along an organic continuum. Clocked, synced and performed in unison within Steve's desert studio, it showcases his mastery of a life-long devotion to hands-on performance. Utilizing real analog synthesizers with knobs and sliders, a mixing console and real-time processing as an additional instrument results in soundscapes infused with a pure natural flow. It is an artisan approach to sound that is quite rare in today's cut and paste approach to electronic music.

Within an impressive body of work that spans nearly 30 years, certain stylistic forms evolve and reappear as significant signposts, as touchstones for both the listener and the artist. This release clearly draws from the heart and soul of Steve's sonic vision.

DESTINATION BEYOND is infused with breaths of life and forward momentum which draws the listener into a serene sense of physical and mental travel. The sound ebbs and flows in constant movement; the meditation of emotion in the music is a yearning for what is over the next rise. As Steve explains in the liner notes, "When the DESTINATION BEYOND calls the heart must go... The magnetic pull and drive towards the point on the horizon, towards the DESTINATION BEYOND. Never reaching this point -- but always seeing it just ahead -- remains a constant theme and impetus in my life."

 
1. Destination BeyondMP371:41 



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