Released: 2010 By Steve Roach
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Sacred sonic spaces and immersive atmospherics embrace the senses
2 x CD
Phil Derby / Electroambient Space
Often a live album is just variations on familiar themes from works already owned in their studio versions by fans. Sometimes though, a live performance takes on a life of its own, capturing the energy of the moment and rearranging the artists work in a fresh way. Live at Grace Cathedral falls firmly into the latter category, a wonderful continuous ambient flow. Calling up sections of seminal works ranging from The Magnificent Void and Light Fantastic to New Life Dreaming, Proof Positive, and more, Steve was clearly in his element in this performance from a couple of years ago in San Francisco.
Flowing with ease from bright floating tones to dark, rumbling undercurrents of sound, the disc is a soothing atmospheric journey. Disc one in particular has a captivating flow to it, distilling the essence of Steve Roach into a seamless 43-minute montage. Disc two continues the flow, adding a touch of texture with soft percussion in part two and a lengthy energetic excerpt of Proof Positive in part three.
Live at Grace Cathedral makes an excellent introduction to Steve Roach for the uninitiated and is sure to please the most stalwart fan as well.
2010. Phil Derby / Electroambient Space
Sylvain Lupari / Guts Of Darkness
Steve Roach‘s sound universe always remains astounding. The man likes challenging the magic of sonorities with recordings where the spiritual presence is the premise of his inspirations. A 2007 recorded concert at the mythical Grace Cathedral of San Francisco on June 29th, Live at Grace Cathedral wants to be the witness of the sound risks that Steve Roach likes to tackle. With its architectural curves which form all sound reverberations, the Grace Cathedral is the ideal place to structure the modulations and oscillations of an ambient music where the slow and morphic synth strata follow the architectural arcs of this old cathedral. To capture all the dimension and depth of his music, Steve Roach proceeds to a very direct recording, hanging microphones in the heights of the Grace Cathedral. This making, murmurs of a hypnotized by elongated synth flights adding a spectral dimension to Steve Roach music.
Soft ghostly layers open Embracing the Space. Synth layers which entangled delicately, forming a peaceful musical maelstrom which increases its intensity by the only strength of its sound extents. Roach is the master of lifelessness musical and the reverberating curves of Grace Cathedral shape marvelously the bends of its sound arcs. Even in suspension and reflection mode, Roach music infiltrates with a divine harmony, at the mercy of his synth modulations. A peaceful flashback to Suspended Memories and the sublime Structure from Silence. Modeling his music with all his creative assets, Steve Roach takes advantage of the passivity his works to create infinite musical possibilities. Discreet, the angelic voices which wind around morphic strata of the 2nd part add a spectral dimension which suits pretty well the pertinence of its environment. The strength of the Californian synthesist lies in its capacity to transform his long ambient works. Thus, after the slow immersion of Embracing the Space first two parts we dive in a sound labyrinth to multiple tribal breaths. Nuances blows which drag their echoes among sinuous strata, reminding the prosaic universe of Serpents Liar and Mystic Chords and Sacred Spaces. Strangeness tones, reverberating waves to sinister breaths, Merging with Graces opening seems much more arise from an abyssal depths of an infernal world than from curves of a pious cathedral. Majestically, Roach adds it a subtle sound limpidity which sparkles in a diagram of plasma fusion. But the tone remains dark and very penetrating, even with the whispers of a crowd staggered by this immense sound sail which swallows up any living species. We are in the depths of Possible Planet and heavily, we slide towards more musical strata which breathe a heavy spirituality which increases its modular intensity with powerful synthesized pads which spawn among the only latent percussions which we find on this double-set opus. A discreet dynamism which re-appears on the 3rd part with its strange jerky, unique to Roach sound world, which sounds as hiccupping sequences stemming from a tribal world to trance dances, beneath a horde of strata as much melodious as disturbing. Intense and melodious, Roach guides us towards its meanders to thousand sound subtleties with a magic dexterity, so much the emotion filters this ambient kirmess which, quietly, fades away with a striking 4th part where stratas powerful reverberating copulate with the serenity with a synth whos delivering its last breaths. A crossing between Chronos (Michael Stearns), Dynamic Stillness and Immersion.
As for me, Steve Roach remains the reference concerning the ambient music. It is one of the only artists in this domain to create an emotion towards its slow modulations which, for many ears, seem abstract. And yet if we listen to it very close, we hear, we perceive all the density and the intensity of a solitary man who is led by an existential quest. Live at Grace Cathedral is a kind of greatest hits of his spirituality music. There are lots of winks of ears and references to titanic works such; Suspended Memories, Arc of Passion, Dynamic Stillness, Landmass, The Magnificent Void, the Immersion series and the unique Structure from Silence. His recording at the Grace Cathedral gives it a highly particular and unique character, worthy of contemporary music masterpieces. Live at Grace Cathedral is an unavoidable which only its detailed listening can explain. A chef-doeuvre!
2010. Sylvain Lupari / Guts Of Darkness
Matt Howarth / Sonic Curiosity
This release from 2010 offers 116 minutes of glorious ambience.As the title implies, this music was performed live at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, on June 29, 2007. Notably, Roach recorded the concert using ambient microphones to capture the structure’s natural reverberant characteristics.
Disc 1 is extremely ambient. The music begins with a vaporous stretch in which fragile tones expand with a sighing quality. Gradual rises and ebbings create a languid feeling, matched by the airy nature of the electronics. The harmonic flow evokes a pacific calm that slowly matures into an optimistic soundscape, still ethereal and quite minimal, but mustering spiritual power with each passing moment. Hints of change creep into play, sneakily, with subtle circumscription. Remote sounds whisper deep in the atmospheric mix, heralding a shift in tone. While the ambience remains ephemeral, a sense of new beginning is established amid the sparse textural flow. The harmonics swell, revealing new scope that manifests in a pleasant escalation of tonal emotion. Just before the disc’s conclusion, things achieve a stately pinnacle.The second disc continues the luxurious ambience with delicate atmospherics tinged with an airy gurgle. Harmonic tones swell, mustering a touch of moderate power that reliably remains subdued. The flow reaches a point where more guttural tones rise to rumble amid the fragile textures, but the overall temperament swiftly returns to its soothing mien. This placid soundscape is periodically visited by auxiliary drones, some of which display hints of authority, accumulating to create a pleasant interlace of undulant tonalities. This even structure is maintained with chords elongated into infinity seasoned by sidereal effects that remain near subliminal in their definition.About halfway through the second disc, a marshalling of vitality occurs. Whirling electronics rise from the ambience to achieve a state of engaging pulsations seasoned by piercing notes. Surging sounds create a languid animation tinged with melodic character. This passage endures, building to a soft intensity that glimmers with an inner illumination. Then things enter a darker stretch, moody and sans whirligig pulsations…which leads to an expansion of optimistic bearing for a gentle finale.
Overall: a very sedate offering.
2010. Matt Howarth / Sonic Curiosity
Bert Strolenberg / Sonic Immersion
In June 2007, Steve was given the opportunity to play an ambient concert in the sacred space of San Franciscos Grace Cathedral. This allowed him to use the natural, expansive reverent ambience of the performance space predominant in the sound mix.
At that occasion, Steve played a melange of music of his albums The Magnificent Void”
Chuck van Zyl / STAR’S END
Grace Cathedral is known as a house of prayer for all people, without exception. From those seeking the divine to others simply looking for a quiet place, this enormous sanctuary in San Francisco welcomes all. Filling this sacred space with sound is a delicate task, as evidenced on the double CD Live at Grace Cathedral by Steve Roach.
A recording of his concert performance, Live at Grace Cathedral manages to retain the beautiful power and atmosphere of this unique event. Exploring the reverberant nature of the sanctum, Roach employs less any rhythmic form and more the imaginative and expressive shifting textures and timbres of his highly original synthesized tones. In measured breaths, deep electronic sighs are gradually introduced as Roach plays his instruments into the fascinating acoustics of the massive hall. Layers of distinctive sounds occupy the air, rolling out then slowly folding back in on themselves – sometimes all the way back down to silence. From smooth and swirling to tempestuous and dark, the condition achieved seems to be that of sustained calm and wonder. The two CDs are harmonic journeys without the usual conclusion.
Roach realizes that the essence of Spacemusic is not to provide a solid narrative or sharp focus but to stimulate the mind of the listener into inevitably contemplating the mysteries of the cosmos.
2010. Chuck van Zyl / STAR’S END
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