Steve Roach has been producing ambient and synthesized music for 40 years. Prolific, he already has three releases out or soon to arrive in 2021. We discuss two of these below.
Steve Roach – Into the Majestic (2021; Timeroom Direct)
Into the Majestic, released on January 1, consists of two tracks and features wafting ambiance across both. The 50-minute title track was recorded from an October 2020 livestream, and represents a sense of optimism and normalcy during an anxious time. It incorporates sequencers that induce a trancelike state through their variations on repetitive themes. They overlap to form constructive patterns which dovetail with synthesized percussive elements. These slowly building in intensity and prominence until they virtually drown out the ambient chords, but never come across as harsh or overbearing. The shorter Spiral Heart is a more typical Roach piece – atmospheric and synth-driven, with processed percussion. If nothing else, Roach demonstrates that his music is a reliable constant even as the world around him was undergoing troubling changes.
Steve Roach – As It Is (2021; Projekt Records)
On As It Is, Roach employs his usual layered and shifting synth chords across six tracks, most in the 10-15 minute range. These pieces include a hint of the cosmic, perhaps a soundtrack for looking up at the night sky. Where things really get going, at least to these ears, is on the fourth track, Equanimity. Roach uses tribal percussion, though in a more subdued fashion than his early-to-mid-90’s works, to evoke a more earthbound and organic presence. Other pieces feature gentle, echoing piano coupled with synths and slow cracking noises. This is a very cinematic album and is well worth a listen for any fan, long-time or otherwise. As It Is hits the shelves on April 2.