Two of my initial ports of entry into a lifelong appreciation of Steve Roach, and drifting ambient music in general, was the combination of Structures from Silence and Quiet Music. They were my first forays away from more energetic electronic music and the too-shiny-for-me charm of New Age. Here was music I could fall into and feel how it was affecting me. Roach notes that Shadow of Time is something of a spiritual successor to the same concepts behind Structures from Silence, and I hear that in the rise and fall cadence, but the pads and chords on this album feel much more present; authoritative and solid, rather than the more gossamer constructs of its predecessor. The 38-minute title track kicks off the album with a subtle sense of majesty. The pads are like a series of muted, slow-moving clarion calls woven with a rich low end, the two coming together in a strong, resonant blend. Roach infuses a time-stretched melody across this track. It constantly has a hands-on-keys feel, Roach picking the spots where the next chord needs to begin its swell and where it needs to ebb. Its voice is assured and forward, yet still soft and warm. “Night Ascends” distinctly—and appropriately—moves away from the gentler tones of Structures… to raise distinct echoes of more shadowy Roach work such as “A Piece of Infinity” from Mystic Chords and Sacred Spaces. It draws on the same general amorphous, beat-free lineage as the rest of the album, but its sense of anticipation and slightly eerie chord pairings distinguish it from the other two tracks. It offers occasional glimmers of bright tones, like moonlight coming through clouds. The final track, “Cloud of Knowing,” is a comparatively mere 12 minutes long, but it is the piece closest to the Structures… ideal. The pads stretch out to a vanishing point, whispering as they go, calming and warm. As the piece reaches its end, Roach almost imperceptibly extends the pauses between pads, and the piece dissolves to become part of your breath.
On the page for this album at his site, Roach notes that “At certain points in my artistic orbit, I re-enter the deeper end of this current…” I for one am glad, always very much so, to have the opportunity to go there with him. Slot this into your growing playlist of beatless masterworks from Roach, and simply float off into the shadow of time.
Available from the Projekt Records Bandcamp page.
Roach’s other foray into the deep end, This Place to Be, arrives as a single long track that runs exceptionally deep. Of the two releases, this one cleaves more closely to the hushed, dream-ready rise and fall of Structures…, an hour-plus of turning inward and getting quiet. This is the whispered voice of the ether, the careful rendering of the sound between silences, the motion of sleeping breath turned to music. This is the stuff you put on a low-volume loop and just live within. As is always the case, Roach floats his lines through passages of light and shadow, but no shift in tone disrupts the smoothness and depth of the flow. An up-close listen reveals plenty of texture, interplay, and harmony. This piece is absolutely perfect for sleep or meditation—or just to exist alongside you as you go through wherever you happen to be.
Available from the Timeroom Direct Bandcamp page.