Monday, January 25, 2021
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Steve Roach: The Sky Opens

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Artist: Steve Roach (@)
Title: The Sky Opens
Format: CDx2 (double CD)
Label: Projekt (@)
Rated: * * * * *
Live discs can be something of a mixed bag at times. A lot of moving parts have to come together seamlessly for them to work well. Is the sound quality any good? Do the tracks work together? People can be pretty forgiving at a live concert, but once you listen to it outside of the moment it can be a different kind of experience. Thankfully, both Roach and Projekt have been at this for a long time, so they each know what they are doing, and the results are evident in this excellent live set. So let’s dive into the set and see what we have here.

Disc 1 opens with “Structures From Silence,” a simple, sparse track that flows like a lullaby. No sudden movements – just a nice, soothing track. “Mercurius Presence” keeps this peaceful feeling going but with an added layer of complexity to the composition. Lush synth pads slowly flow over you. “The Mystic Within” switches it up somewhat with a darker feel. Minor tone synth drones mix with pounding piano for an uneasy feeling. “The Sky Opens” is considerably different from the previous tracks. This is heavily arpeggiated synth analog synth. The track is incredibly complex in comparison to the previous tracks. The overall result ends up being somewhat hypnotic. Overall, this is a wonderful track and one of the best on the disc. If you've ever wondered what it would sound like if Erasure collaborated with Steve Roach, this is your answer. Finally we gets to “Merge Infinite,” and this track alone is worth the price of this disk. Weighing in at 31 minutes it's the longest piece in the entire set and one can easily think of it as a composition in multiple movements. We keep the arpeggiated analog synth from “The Sky Opens” and add a sense of rhythm and motion that keeps the track interesting across its half hour duration.

Disc 2 kicks off with “The Continent,” slowing it down considerably with gorgeous synth washes and slow thudding percussion. The overall mood is peaceful and beautiful. “Songline” kicks it up a notch with more aggressive percussion and the luscious drones in the didgeridoo. Yes, I was wondering when this instrument would make its appearance, as it wouldn’t feel like a Steve Roach album without it. “Time Of The Ancients” opens up with heavily processed breathing before giving way to ominous dark synth drone and snippets of analog goodness. Percussion is buried in the mix giving it kind of a far away feel. This track is all about atmosphere. “Magnificent Gallery” is a short track with a peaceful melody over synth washes that pulse like the ebb and flow of the ocean. “Circular Ceremony” keeps this mellow feeling going with a calm, peaceful synth number with sparse percussion sprinkled throughout. “Looking For Safety” concludes the disc with a lovely number that doesn't so much begin as emerges into being. Lush synth and percussion that comes in without you even noticing. As it progresses, the atmosphere changes as the drums become more pronounced and you find yourself in the middle of a ritual. The intensity builds over time until it finally dissipates into a slow dissolve.

The nice thing about this set is that the tracks flow together in such a way that you would almost not even know that they were different tracks. The music shifts seamlessly from track to track, as if you're listening to one long track that is constantly shifting and evolving. At times you don't even recognize that you've moved on to another track until halfway through when the feeling changes slowly, but deliberately. This is more than just a group of tracks put together and performed in front of an audience. There's a sense of cohesion that is often lacking in live performances. The fact that Roach was able to keep this entire feeling going through two discs is a testament to his ability to weave together a tapestry of sound that works well together. The tracks as a whole feel both familiar and new at the same time. Those familiar with Roach’s work will find no surprises here, but they will definitely not be disappointed. This is beautiful and well worth picking up.

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