All art stems from a deeply personal space, and the output takes its form based largely on where we are emotionally as well as artistically at the time we create. When we’re happy we write love songs or paint in bright colors; when we’re sad, the songs get morose and packed with minor chords and the paintings get darker and more brooding. So when a work originates from a point of taking a long, introspective look at who the artist is, where he’s come from and how he views life in general, the result is going to be loaded with varied emotions and shifting forms of expression. This is the nexus point of of Steve Roach’s newest offering, Sigh of Ages.
Crafted during what Roach describes as extended periods of solitude and personal reflection, Sigh of Ages understandably looks back over Roach’s shoulder and is unapologetically nostalgic in spots, from the frequent familiarity of tone and structure to the use of older equipment, including a 40-year-old Arp String Ensemble. At the same time, however, Sigh has the freshness of imposing the craft of the artist of now on the artist of then to alchemize the two periods into a unique flow. “The View from Here” is such a track, where the sequencer-driven Steve, who first tapped and twiddled knobs in the 80s and then returned to his analog synths 20 years later, works crisply across the top of a mellow drift brought in by the Structures From Silence-era Steve by way of virtually all of his endless deep-looping excursions since. The same construct, with a somewhat different vibe, courses through the loping semi-mechanical groove of “Return of the Majestic.”
There are also passages here that are as outrightly melodic as Roach has allowed himself to be in quite a while. “Morning of Ages” is an outpouring of emotion that borders on a wordless confessional. It packs feelings of remorse, longing and possibility–or perhaps what you hear in it is what you bring to it. But you will hear it.
While it may sound entirely too posturingly metaphysical to say so, Sigh of Ages imparts a feeling of bare-souled honesty in every track, and this is what, in part, makes it such a stunningly gorgeous CD. It is Roach telling you that this is who he was, and is, and wanted to be, and hopes still to be, all in one go. From a listening standpoint it’s deep and surrounding, warm and, in spots, pleasantly energetic. This is a disc you will be listening to over and over, just to feel it again.
Kudos also go to Chuck van Zyl for his content-perfect cover photography.
Sigh of Ages is a Hypnagogue Highly Recommended CD.