by Anthony D'Amico, Brainwashed
Steve Roach's 1984 opus STRUCTURES FROM SILENCE has been a staple of my record collection for ages, but it has been about eight years since I last checked out anything new from him. Although he can sometimes be a bit too earthy for my taste, DESTINATION BEYOND shows that Steve has not yet abandoned the spacier side that produced THE MAGNIFICENT VOID, nor have his powers begun to ebb at all. I wish I had been paying more attention, as he seems to be in the midst of a rather fruitful creative period.
DESTINATION BEYOND consists of a single 71-minute track that is very much a kindred spirit to Brian Eno's Apollo, owing largely to its shimmering washes of warm synths and general spacious and shadowy atmosphere. Notably, there is not much else to it, merely a slow bass pulse, a burbling arpeggio, and some skittering percussion. Also, it does not unfold into multiple movements or sections: the drifting, spectral tones that open the piece remain central for its entire duration. Nevertheless, it all works extremely well due to Roach's clear mastery of the form. While nothing new ever appears, the song's sparse components subtly wax and wane in relation to one another throughout and it all flows seamlessly and organically, which is likely the result of Roach's insistence on playing in real-time and eschewing most contemporary computer-editing practices. It almost sounds like he is manipulating how each individual note dissolves and decays, which would require an almost inhuman degree of meticulousness (but probably would not surprise me).
Roach seems completely unconcerned with and uninfluenced by prevailing trends in drone and ambient music: there is nothing here that indicates that it could not have been released in the early '80s. While certainly indebted to Eno, Klaus Schulze, and Tangerine Dream for his original inspiration, Steve's biggest influence always seems to be himself. I think that is probably an admirable trait, but it is an interesting contrast to the trajectory of his erstwhile collaborator Vidna Obmana (Dirk Serries), who has found a new generation of fans as Fear Falls Burning. Roach seems decidedly unlikely to deliver any such surprises himself, but the reward for his steadfastness seems to be a sophistication and elegance that is uniquely his own (the rewards here are greater for connoisseurs of the form, I believe).
DESTINATION BEYOND is a very good album. It's hard for me completely fall in love with it, as it is a bit too calm and edgeless (despite some foreboding undertones) for my taste, but I am nonetheless extremely impressed with the virtuosity of Roach textural juggling act. Also, it is a pretty excellent and deserving addition to the space music canon, certainly holding its own against Roach's revered precursors.