by Marc Weidenbaum, e|i magazine
Flying over some unidentifiable mid-continent, peering out the window, looking for a landmark -- this is the sensation that issues from Steve Roach's TEXTURE MAPS
. The album is a collection of free range atmospheres, wide carpets of sound material and stereophonic images. It is also easily among the most ambient sets by this musician with a taste for the tribal. Despite the physicality of both words in the album's title, it's an ethereal program, free of percussion, free to drift, entirely oblivious to the mechanistic procession of the CD player's digital counter. The synthesized waves of "Gray and Purple," the opening cut, rise like fumes from a chemical fire. The distant rumbles of "Bottomless 2" are as dark-toned as the listener might hope for, given its title, and it's accented occasionally with bright moments, the sun slicing through noxious cloud cover. The tracks, eight in all, three of them longer than 15 minutes each, were recorded between 1987 and 2003, and are presented here in nearly chronological order. As a result, they provide a map not only of the terrain of Roach's fervid imagination, but of a decade and a half in his maturation as a spiritually directed musician. While "Gray and Purple" (1987) still bears the marks of experimentation -- choral elements, for example, in which the tactile evidence of a keyboard instrument is still present -- "Soul Light" (2003) is almost unbearably vivid in its seamlessness, its otherworldly, or subterranean, verisimilitude. The final portion of the "Spiral Triptych" (2001) is, to mess with a line from the band Godflesh, like an epiphany on hold. And like the best ambient music, these latter day cuts on TEXTURE MAPS
are field recordings from alien worlds.
The Lost Pieces Vol. 3
2003 Timeroom Editions 11 (CD)
Reviewed by Bert Strolenberg, Ambient Musings, Ambient Visions, Deep Listenings, e|i magazine, Ping Things, Sonic Curiosity, Wind and Wire
This purely atmospheric set maps the shift from the tonal serenity found on Steve's earlier work towards the harmonically rich and contrasted souldworlds of late. The centerpiece of TEXTURE MAPS is a pivotal 20-minute piece recorded the same week as "Looking for Safety" from DREAMTIME RETURN. Titled "Grey and Purple", it's a genuine lost piece from 1987 that foreshadows Steve's sonic evolution as later realized on THE MAGNIFICENT VOID and ultimately MYSTIC CHORDS & SACRED SPACES.
This edition of Lost Pieces has a consistent atmospheric feel throughout, unlike THE LOST PIECES (Vol. 1) and TRUTH & BEAUTY (Vol. 2) which mixed the dynamic and more atmospheric pieces together.
1. "Gray and Purple" (1987) -- This pivotal piece was recorded live in the studio the same week as "Looking for Safety" from DREAMTIME RETURN. In listening now, I can feel how it was forecasting the oncoming contrasted harmonic climates that would become most realized on THE MAGNIFICENT VOID and MYSTIC CHORDS & SACRED SPACES. The shift from the serene nature of QUIET MUSIC and STRUCTURES FROM SILENCE is clear on this recording.
2. "Artifact Ghost" (1993) -- This atmosphere has continued to haunt me from the moment it was made. It first was heard supporting the momentum of the rhythmic forms on ARTIFACTS and WELL OF SOULS. This pure version was used as a "walk in" atmosphere for many concerts around this time. While it's around nine minutes on this CD, the original length was 90 minutes. I found the circular - spiraling - aspect of this steady state space especially effective when it was played in continuous low volume loop playback in the house for many days and nights around this time.
3, 4, 5. "Spiral Triptych" (2001) -- These three interconnected spaces are part of a large collection of unreleased zones that shaped the direction of the MYSTIC CHORDS & SACRED SPACES project early on.
6. "Bottomless 2" (1999) -- An alternate mix of a piece featured on a compilation for the Hypnos label. It is poured from a similar material that made THE MAGNIFICENT VOID, and created around this same time.
7, 8. "Quiet Sun" and "Soul Light" (2003) -- These two spaces are a few of the many created live in the studio after MYSTIC CHORDS & SACRED SPACES was complete. The creative momentum continued pulling me deeper in as I was coming back up to the surface upon the official conclusion of the four Mystic CD's. The pieces kept coming, and this one in particular feels like a fitting bookend in relationship to the opening piece from 1987, "Gray and Purple".