Live at Grace Cathedral
by Sylvain Lupari, Guts Of Darkness
Steve Roach's sound universe always remains astounding. The man likes challenging the magic of sonorities with recordings where the spiritual presence is the premise of his inspirations. A 2007 recorded concert at the mythical Grace Cathedral in San Francisco on June 29th, LIVE AT GRACE CATHEDRAL wants to be the witness of the sound risks that Steve Roach likes to tackle. With its architectural curves which form all sound reverberations, Grace Cathedral is the ideal place to structure the modulations and oscillations of an ambient music where the slow and morphic synth strata follow the architectural arcs of this old cathedral. To capture all the dimension and depth of his music, Steve Roach proceeds to a very direct recording, hanging microphones in the heights of the cathedral. This making, murmurs of a hypnotized by elongated synth flights adding a spectral dimension to Steve Roach music.
Soft ghostly layers open Embracing the Space. Synth layers which entangled delicately, forming a peaceful musical maelstrom which increases its intensity by the only strength of its sound extents. Roach is the master of lifelessness musical and the reverberating curves of Grace Cathedral shape marvelously the bends of its sound arcs. Even in suspension and reflection mode, Roach music infiltrates with a divine harmony, at the mercy of his synth modulations, a peaceful flashback to Suspended Memories and the sublime STRUCTURES FROM SILENCE. Modeling his music with all his creative assets, Steve Roach takes advantage of the passivity his works to create infinite musical possibilities. Discreet, the angelic voices which wind around morphic strata of the second part add a spectral dimension which well suits the pertinence of its environment. The strength of the synthesist lies in its capacity to transform his long ambient works. Thus, after the slow immersion of Embracing the Space's first two parts, we dive into a sound labyrinth of multiple tribal breaths. Nuances blow, dragging their echoes among sinuous strata, reminding the prosaic universe of THE SERPENT'S LAIR and MYSTIC CHORDS & SACRED SPACES.
With strange tones and reverberating waves of sinister breaths, Merging with Grace's opening seems to arise more from abyssal depths of an infernal world than from curves of a pious cathedral. Majestically, Roach adds a subtle sound limpidity which sparkles in a diagram of plasma fusion. But the tone remains dark and very penetrating, even with the whispers of a crowd staggered by this immense sound sail which swallows up any living species. We are in the depths of POSSIBLE PLANET, and heavily we slide towards more musical strata breathing a heavy spirituality. These increase their modular intensity with powerful synthesized pads which spawn among the only latent percussion on this double-disc opus. A discreet dynamism which re-appears on the third part with its strange jerky sound, unique to Roach's sound world, hiccupping sequences stemming from a tribal world into trance dances, beneath a horde of strata as melodious as it is disturbing. Intensly, Roach guides us towards its meandering subtleties with magic dexterity, so much that the emotion filters this ambient performance. It quietly fades away with a striking fourth part where STRATA's powerful reverberations copulate with the serenity of a synth delivering its last breaths. A crossing between Michael Stearns' Chronos, DYNAMIC STILLNESS, and the Immersion series.
For me, Steve Roach remains the reference point of ambient music. He is one of the only artists in this domain to create an emotion from slow modulations which, to many ears, seem abstract. And yet if we listen to it very closely, we hear, and we perceive all the density and the intensity of a solitary man who is led by an existential quest. LIVE AT GRACE CATHEDRAL is a kind of greatest hits of his spiritual music. There are lots of winks and references to titanic works such as Suspended Memories, ARC OF PASSION, DYNAMIC STILLNESS, LANDMASS, THE MAGNIFICENT VOID, the Immersion series and the unique STRUCTURES FROM SILENCE. His recording at Grace Cathedral has a highly particular and unique character, worthy of contemporary music masterpieces. LIVE AT GRACE CATHEDRAL is no to be missed, which only a detailed listening can explain. A chef-d'oeuvre!