Sigh of Ages
by John Shanahan, Hypnagogue
July 2010


All art stems from a deeply personal space, and the output takes its form based largely on where we are emotionally as well as artistically at the time we create. When we're happy we write love songs or paint in bright colors. When we're sad, the songs get morose and packed with minor chords, and the paintings get darker and more brooding. So when a work originates from a point of taking a long, introspective look at who the artist is, where he's come from and how he views life in general, the result is going to be loaded with varied emotions and shifting forms of expression. This is the nexus point of of Steve Roach's newest offering, SIGH OF AGES.

Crafted during what Roach describes as extended periods of solitude and personal reflection, SIGH OF AGES understandably looks back over Roach's shoulder and is unapologetically nostalgic in spots, from the frequent familiarity of tone and structure to the use of older equipment, including a 40-year-old Arp String Ensemble. At the same time, however, SIGH OF AGES has the freshness of imposing the craft of the artist of now on the artist of then to alcheimize the two periods into a unique flow. "The View From Here" is such a track, where the sequencer-driven Steve who first tapped and twiddled knobs in the 80's and then returned to his analog synths 20 years later, works crisply across the top of a mellow drift brought in by the STRUCTURES FROM SILENCE-era Steve by way of virtually all his endless deep-looping excursions since.

There are also passages here that are as outrightly melodic as Roach has allowed himself to be in quite a while. "Morning of Ages" is an outpouring of emotion that borders on a wordless confessional. It packs feelings of remorse, longing and possibility -- or perhaps what you hear in it is what you bring to it. But you will hear it.

While it may sound entirely too posturingly metaphysical to say so, SIGH OF AGES imparts a feeling of bare-souled honesty in every track, and this is what, in part, makes it such a stunningly gorgeous CD. It is Roach telling you that this is who he was, and is, and wanted to be, and hopes still to be, all in one go. From a listening standpoint it's deep and surrounding, warm and, in spots, pleasantly energetic. This is a disc you will be listening to over and over.

Kudos also go to Chuck van Zyl for his content-perfect cover photography.

SIGH OF AGES is a Hypnagogue Highly Recommended CD.


Sigh of Ages

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SIGH OF AGES (CD)
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Sigh of Ages
Steve Roach
2010 Projekt PRO246 (CD)
Reviewed by Steve Roach, Hypnagogue, One Thousand Pulses, Sonic Immersion

Emotions quietly stir and resonate in this deeply self-reflective album exploring the terrain between melodic electronic/ambient and modern minimalism. These six pieces utilize gentle melody, harmony and sonic tonality to poignantly reflect upon the passage of time, life lived, lives passed and a time of renewal: a sigh of the ages expressed in sound.

SIGH OF AGES is the result of extended periods of solitude and personal reflection for acclaimed composer Roach. Resulting directly from dynamic personal and cultural events, these pieces developed over time and in the moment. After 10 months of early morning and late night sonic meditations, Roach collected these various pieces and found they portrayed a poetic theme of sonic interpretations from this experience. Sculpted and refined in the artist's deft hands, the source material of life itself took on a voice that spoke from a deep emotional well of subtle contemplation. A sacred realm of inner reflection.

"The title came to me as I was creating the pieces," Roach recalls. "Titles always seem to emerge through the hours of working on the music combined with the place the sound takes me. What emerged was the sense of what it feels like to release a big sigh after a challenging time or a long run in life. A poignant sense of nostalgia and longing, breathing a collective sigh of release which carries forth into psychological and spiritual space. That is where the music and eventually the title grew from."

As the music neared completion, a specific image continued to appear in my mind's eye while listening to and fine-tuning the master. I remembered the evocative photographic work of Star's End Host and The Gatherings concert series founder Chuck Van Zyl. I soon found the image I was seeing in Chuck's gallery portfolio. It felt like a case of remote viewing; the cover image was a perfect connection to my imagination. Nothing else could match the non-verbal perfection this image held with the feeling this music reaches towards.

SIGH OF AGES taps into a lineage of signpost releases starting with the '80s melodic era of STRUCTURES FROM SILENCE and QUIET MUSIC up through the textural tour de force of 2003's MYSTIC CHORDS & SACRED SPACES and 2009's DYNAMIC STILLNESS. For this journey, Roach drew on his essential collection of beloved analog synthesizers including a classic 40-year-old Arp String Ensemble, a historic polyphonic synthesizer that breathes life into the track "Morning of Ages," swirling and rolling upon itself like the strong currents of a rushing mountain river. "The View from Here" unfolds in a stately motion on a majestic sequenced pulse with voluminous melodic synthesizer clouds unfolding along the horizon. This alchemy of sounds creates a deeply nuanced album filled with shadow and light, unique within the language of Roach's soundworlds.

While the passage of time and expansive breath is an ongoing theme for Roach, the reflections and perceptions expressed on SIGH OF AGES delves into a contrasted intimate space only accessed in times of solitude. It is the deeply-layered, subtley-nuanced emotional language which is the ongoing, unseen undercurrent of our lives.

 
1. Quelling PlaceMP38:14 
2. The View From HereMP310:31 
3. Sentient BreathMP315:47 
4. Morning of AgesMP313:02 
5. Return of the MajesticMP316:03 
6. Longing to Be...MP310:10 

Presented in a 6-panel DigiPak.



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