Compilations / Mixes
Steve Roach: Structures From Silence
Originally issued in 1984, Steve Roach's third album, Structures From Silence, now re-emerges in a re-mastered form as one-third of a triple-CD set. Indicative of the esteem with which the recording is held, New Age Voice magazine in 2002 listed Structures from Silence as the fourth most influential ambient album of all time (preceded by Eno's Ambient 1: Music for Airports in the number one slot, Roach's Dreamtime Return at number two, and Wendy Carlos's Sonic Seasonings at three). It's important to note that the content on the bonus discs doesn't originate from the 1984 sessions but is material Roach recorded in 2013 and 2014. Despite that difference, the new content plays very much like a natural complement to the earlier recording, and one comes away from the 190-minute recording marveling at how enrapturing long-form settings of thirty- to forty-minute duration can be. For a certain crowd of hard-core ambient devotees, the release must be like nirvana rendered into physical form.
Exuding a soft, crystalline glow, “Reflections in Suspension,” the opening setting on Structures from Silence, sets the tone for the hour-long release in its unhurried flow of synthetic washes and lustrous patterns. Here and elsewhere, Roach's music breathes with such a serene and natural grace, it sounds like it could just as easily have been created yesterday as thirty years ago. Interestingly, the meditative title track, with its entrancing rising synth figures, plays like nothing less than a companion piece to Eno's 1975 Discreet Music, specifically the side-long, synthesizer-generated title track. If anything, Roach's piece so vividly recalls Eno's, one could be excused for hearing the former as an homage to the latter.
That the recent material plays like an extension of the earlier was no accident. In Roach's own words, “Over the years since the creation of Structures From Silence, certain pieces would emerge in the studio that instantly had the resonance of a direct relationship to the place that birthed this work back in 1984 … Like the three original tracks, these were created in moments spent simply being present in the studio, tapping the flow state and guiding this sense into these recorded moments.” Four settings appear on discs two and three (titled Suspension and Reflection and Below and Beyond, respectively), the shortest twenty-eight minutes and the longest forty (for the record, each disc plays like a single work, given that the first track flows into the second without interruption). Imagine the slightest, most fragile wisp of smoke rising elegantly in ultra-slow-motion and you'll have an idea as to what these discs sounds like. If anything, their glassy swirling vistas of synthetic sound are as anxiety-eradicating as the music on the original release.
Roach achieves something rather remarkable in this music in managing to create the illusion of stillness despite the irreducibility of temporal flow. In other words, the music maintains the paradoxical impression of stasis even when it stretches itself out across the set's longest piece, the forty-minute “Below” (how fitting that the recording facility where all three discs were recorded is called the Timeroom). That Structures from Silence was voted by Yoga Journal in late 2000 as one of the top ten all-time releases for yoga might not be a compliment by everyone's standards, but the point is nevertheless well-taken. Certainly if ever there was an antidote, maybe even a panacea, for the ultra-accelerated pace of life today with all of its attendant, soul-crushing overload, Roach's recording could very well be it. As far as psychic healing is concerned, this collection is a tough one to beat.