The Fall of Roach: A Study in Autumn Ambience
by Glenn Hammett, The Raging Consciousness Desk
September of the year 2000 turned out to be a watershed month for ambient music aficionados worldwide with the surreptitious release of three new recordings from pre-eminent lectronic artist Steve Roach. One might guess Roach to be complacent, wishing to hold true to past releases to quell fans in keeping status quo. This, it turns out, could be no further from the truth. The patented "Roach soundworlds" are here, yet the pullulate releasing of four CD's-worth of new sounds emanate from disparate sources. Roach presents followers with a solo work, the one-of-a-kind slate-packaged EARLY MAN, a duet of sorts with a Tibetan Monk PRAYERS TO THE PROTECTOR, and a host of surprise guest musicians on the double CD THE SERPENT'S LAIR.
Never recumbent, Roach's hegemonic rise as the leading artist of droning, still, ambiance has been steady and deliberate, one of solid, fully realized sonic journeys these last twenty-plus years. In fact, recent volitions of ambient music collectors and artists have found Roach titles topping the polls – and for good reason. Roach retains a sound often copied – never bettered – a mix of mysterious soundworlds, outstanding sonics, skill and attention to detail sorely lacking in so much of today's 'lo-fi-is-better' world.
In a recent dialogue with Steve, the 'magic' that gives the impression of the difference between his work and other similar music is that his music emanates from the inside outwards. Roach explains how his "years of traveling the soundcurrent have created the understanding that comes with it". Ambient music collectors have expressed concerns as to the direction drone-based music would follow. There was, it seemed, an exhausted end to the technique. There is only so much one may realize within a given area, right? However, Roach's compositional sagacity lends itself to the drone electronics, creating music with seemingly infinite boundaries. There is a depth of texture and color Roach creates, which is the very splendor of his work. While some artists create in shades of black (or likewise), Roach uses the entirety of the frequency spectrum; one sated with unbounded possibilities and endless mixing of color.