Sigh of Ages
by Darren Bergstein, One Thousand Pulses
Experience has demonstrated that often the best recordings fail to reveal their finest drops until repeat plays acclimate the ear. Roach's SIGH OF AGES
is one such recording, and, like many from his canon, it indeed draws you in after that first exposure but is devastatingly more effective once you've spun it thrice. Roach's uncanny gift for beauteous understatement never fails to amaze, and the six pieces here, many of which cross paths hitherto unexplored, represent collectively as fine a recording as he's done to date. A sense of time uninterrupted and ungatherable weaves a potent stream of melancholia throughout the album, no less so than during the edgy, spidery undulations that inform "Quelling Place", but it's during the softly burbling sequencers and oceanic swells of "The View From Here" that Roach's existential moorings become tangible as the piece hovers in a contemplative zone with no physical beginning, middle or end -- it's subtle but powerful stuff. "Morning of Ages", however, is where the artist truly surprises on this go 'round; Roach might well have titled this "Adagio for (Synth) Strings" as he channels Arvo Pärt and John Adams through the duration of the piece's shimmering, abject poetry. The final 26 minutes, comprising "Return of the Majestic" and "Longing to Be...", move, resonate and becalm in equal measure, Roach's sonic portraiture a simply dazzling collection of discrete analog brushstrokes and gently pulsing daubs of color. Perhaps it's premature to bandy about a word like "masterpiece", but history might well position SIGH OF AGES
as a distinct highpoint in Roach's vast oeuvre.
|Sigh of Ages|
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 Place||MP3||8:14|| |
|2. ||The View From Here||MP3||10:31|| |
|3. ||Sentient Breath||MP3||15:47|| |
|4. ||Morning of Ages||MP3||13:02|| |
|5. ||Return of the Majestic||MP3||16:03|| |
|6. ||Longing to Be...||MP3||10:10|| |
Presented in a 6-panel DigiPak.