AMN Reviews: Steve Roach – The Sky Opens (2020; Projekt Records)

Steve Roach has recorded a virtually countless number of albums over the last 40 years, all within the loose ambient / electronic genre pioneered by artists such as Brian Eno and Klaus Schulze. Here, we have a 2CD, 140-minute live recording from Roach’s 2019 “Ambient Church” performance at the First United Methodist Church of Pasadena, California.

Roach covers plenty of ground familiar to long-time fans. He begins with a reimagining of Structures From Silence, a track from his 1984 album of the same name. He also includes five pieces from his tribal-ambient classic Dreamtime Return. In and in between these offerings, he provides an overview of his early styles, including gentle synth waves, electronic piano-oriented pieces over washes, and sequencer-based rhythms.

The 31-minute Merge Infinite is an example of some of these building blocks, with heavy sequencer runs overlaid with both pastoral and ominous keyboard pulses and atmospheres. But perhaps the most powerful tracks are those from Dreamtime Return, which include aboriginal percussion patterns coupled with ebbing and flowing synth work. He even breaks out the didgeridoo for Songline. These live recreations evoke the imposing beauty of natural landscapes, and like those landscapes are both majestic and intimidating.

If you are a newcomer to Roach, The Sky Opens would not be a bad place to start. And then dig into his back catalog.

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