Live at Grace Cathedral
by John Shanahan, Hypnagogue
In his live performances, Steve Roach is known for upping the volume. He believes that you need to feel the music as well as hear it. That being said, on your first listen to the new two-disc LIVE AT GRACE CATHEDRAL, you'll want to crank it up a bit to get the feeling. Although it starts off softly, this live set from 2007 increases in intensity, swirling elements driving upward to peak before exhaling back down into a quiet-mind space. The first disc, "Embracing the Space," is the shorter of the two, a 45-minute set that begins with long pads that rise reverently to fill the cathedral. There's a distinct sacred music feel, almost choral in nature, to the beginning as Roach pays homage to the room by shaping his sounds into the space. In his press materials, Roach notes that the acoustics of the cathedral played a large part in how he proceeded, musically; he considered it a partner. In the middle of Part Two the intent shifts; sound snippets that cull memories of THE SERPENT'S LAIR and SPIRIT DOME creeping forth to spread shadowy lower-world tendrils. THE MAGNIFICENT VOID-style chords urge in, rumbling and glistening darkly through the air, pushing the space wide again. In the closing minutes, Roach introduces a subtle didgeridoo tone before a dust-devil wind spins up screaming, cutting everything off to a final hushed flow. Disc two, "Merging with Grace," is a full-length (73-minute) CD that kicks off with skittering, insectile sounds familiar from POSSIBLE PLANET before gliding down into another long stretch of quiet pads. Part Two of this disc may be the best section of the entire set, 25 absolutely engaging, drift-filled minutes where Roach builds a meditative soundbase which he then breathes life into with the didgeridoo, merging the electronic and the organic. The energy level rises, bring a sense of upward motion with analog synths evoking a feel similar to the middle portions of his last live release, LANDMASS. The final 12 minutes or so of this journey, coming after a rush that culminates in a nova-burst of sound, are as soft, cleansing and deep as QUIET MUSIC or STRUCTURES FROM SILENCE. Roach, having amped up the velocity, skillfully edges it downward into a perfect state of quietness. Remain in there as long as you need, until the resonance from this superb voyage fades. Then listen again. LIVE AT GRACE CATHEDRAL is a Hypnagogue Highly Recommended CD.