by Forestter Cobalt, Supersphere
Steve Roach has a bevy of self-described genres his releases fall under, from "Atmospheric Space" to "Desert-Ambient" and a bunch of styles in between. Roach is a highly prolific musician, and I can't even count how many of his albums I own. He's like a pusher of drones, with a never-ending supply. After many years and many labels, he has created his own label, Timeroom Editions (The Timeroom is also a recording studio), so that clearly he can set his own agenda (like an upcoming album with actual slate covers), and sell particular albums mail-order only. Despite the private label releases, or larger label works, differences between works in Roach's catalog sometimes seem slight -- or else I'm just a bit jaded from hearing so much of his output over the years.
The recent ATMOSPHERIC CONDITIONS has a few wholly unique elements tied up in its creation that set it particularly apart from other his other releases. "Two Rivers Dreaming" was recorded as part of the Deep Listening Weekend in Italy in spring of '99. The artwork for the album was created by photographer Stu Jenks to the music of this album based upon philosophical parallels between their works. This album is meant to be played in random succession with the albums THE DREAM CIRCLE, SLOW HEAT, and many other albums of long, continuous pieces. In this sense, the clarity of Roach's role as ambient composer is complicated even more, as if Roach might suggest almost no single album is either meant to stand alone. But neither is an album of his meant to play on the stereo without active listening. Yet, too much active listening can blind the listener searching for details, fragments, elements that are buried. In a sense, Roach is as much a conceptual artist as he is a composer, and I would tend to presume, one who creates with a continual sense of spontaneity and movement, without worrying the details or elements to death.
ATMOSPHERIC CONDITIONS is indeed a mellow, atmospheric album, one that is highly suggestive in it's minor-key framework. Whether deep rumblings that suggest storm clouds or the movement of plate tectonics, the sounds of strange birds or storms of insects, notes that sound like they are sinking to the bottom of an ocean or moving into the spirit world -- this is very much Roach's territory, regardless of what sort of specific ambient subgenre it fits into. The more I listen, the more lost I become within it, and have to spend some time reorienting myself in reality. This album is utterly otherworldly.