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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Steve Roach - Structures From Silence-30th Anniversary 3CD Edit [Projekt. - 2014]

Originally released in 1984, Structures From Silence was the third album from US ambient legend Steve Roach.  The album is often considered oneof Roach’s most influential, respected and celebrated albums- it conists of three lengthy tracks that are built around simplistic interlocking textural  synth patterns, which are both soothing, melodic & atmospheric. 

This reissue from early on this year is the 30th anniversary reissue- which finds the original album getting 4-bit/96k remix from the original analog mixes.  Along with two discs of new material, that tries to recreate the vibe/feel of the original albums tracks.  The release comes in either: a fold out three CD digipak sleeve (similar to the reissue of Roach’s Quite Music), or as a digital download.

So first off let’s talk about the original album, and then we'll move onto the new material. The album opens with “Reflections in Suspension”, which comes in at just shy of the seventeen minute mark. The track is built around a mixture of simmering ‘n’ moody synth bass line, and a higher pitched melodic synth line. Both elements remain fairly fixed in their repetitive pattern for the first ten or so mintues, with Roach skillful building atmosphere & mood with sub-tone sweeps & rises. In the last seven or so mintues Roach subtle slows the patterns down, until by the end of the track we're left with a just a slowed golden wash of melody . The whole thing sounds bright, airy & pleasing, yet there is a slight hint of more mysterious/emotional edges too.  The thing that hits you most about this track is how time-less it sounds; sure you can tell Roach is using 80’s technology, but it doesn’t sound dated or tacky. But instead feels as fresh & enriching as the gentle spring winds, yet never new agey or bland.

Next up we have the just over thirteen mintues of ”Quiet Friend”. This track follows on from the slowed pace of the end of the  first track, and is built around a warming yet slightly troubled mix of hovering ‘n’ wavering mid-to-high pitched synth tones. These tones sort of settle around you in a pleasing & soothing manner- like a relaxing sonic haze, yet once again it’s never contrived or new agey. At around the ninth minute more defined synth key patterns appear playing out the track central melody- these new textures have an almost oriental like gentleness to them. Though-out there’s  a real feel of emotional & slow melodic grace to the proceedings. This track I guess is a bit more dreamy & relaxing than the first track, but once again it’s a very captivating listening, which seems to pull you in deeper & deeper into its pleasing warmth.

Lastly on the original album we have the title track, and this is longest track of the original album at 28.33 mark. This track is built a mixture of slowly hovering low-end ambient synth texturing, with a higher pitched bright & airy melody line on top. This I guess is the most repetitive & unmoving of all the tracks on this first/original disc, as both elements repeat the same patterns over & over again through the tracks full length. I’ll have to admit on my first few plays through, I wasn’t a fan of the track - it just felt too bright, sweet & buoyant for it’s own good, lacking the more mysterious/ moody subtleties  of the other tracks. But over time I’ve grown to enjoy the track more & more, and really it makes perfect senses after the other tracks...Like you’ve found perfect enlightenment & glowing joy at the end of your sonic journey.

Really it’s easy to see why this original album is so celebrated & praised, as it takes you on such a compelling, warming, and melodic journey…yet it never feels contrived, dated, or bland…it’s just a work of simple ambient beauty.

 

So let’s move onto the extra/new material for this 30th anniversary reissue, and you get an extremely generous two full length CD’s worth of new work. Each of the discs features two tracks a piece, and each of these runs between just under thirty to near on forty mintues a piece. So on disc two firstly we have “Suspension”, and this track comes in at just shy of the twenty nine mintue mark. This track rather brought to mind ”Quiet Friend”  from the original album, with it's hovering ‘n’ hazed dense flow of ambience. The flowing ‘n’ circling tones mixes lighter/ higher harmonic textures, with more moody lows. Structural wise the track remains fairly undefined in it’s flow, though it does follow a fairly similar ebb ‘n’ flow of tones through-out with the whole thing washing over you in a soothing yet slightly mysterious  manner.

Second on disc two we have “Reflection”, and this comes in at just over the thirty minute mark. And this once again this track  follows  the  sort of slow ebbing ‘n’ drift of ambient tones, but this time they seem slight less mysterious & moody, than the first track, having this slow swirling harmonic twinkle to them. As the track progresses the tones seem to slow more & more around you to create this mellow/ lush flow of ambince..I’m not sure if the track is in reality slowing, or it’s just a trick of my mind- but which ever it’s another  most satisfying track.


On disc three we have another two lengthy tracks, and these come in the form of "Beyond"( running at 32.11), and "Below"( running at 39.47). The first track  has a  more darker & eerier focus, compared to the other tracks here- it’s built around these two or three nocturnal focused ambient synth textures, which are playing out these similar sounding  repetitive darkly harmonic patterns at slightly different speeds. This structure gives the impression of three dimensions, all most as if you could reach into the speakers & feel the slow gloomy patterns unfolding for seemingly ever & ever.  To me the track seems to be creating this feeling of something that’s continual climb up & up, in search of light…but all there ever seems to be is another layer of eerier nocturnal-ness.

The second track sequences in directly from the first, and to start with it carries on the flowing gloomy ambient  patterns of the first track. But fairly soon the nocturnal climbing shifts into slow moving drifts & sweeps of ambient tone. To me this track feels like your  hearing a  hazed & distant recording of lush string work swirling & ebbing on a soothing summer breeze. The textures are nicely blurred yet you can just make out this rich & majestic melody- the darkness of the first track has departed, but there’s still quite a feeling of mystery & moodiness to this track


All in all this is a most welcome reissue of one of Mr Roach’s most respected,  celebrated, and timeless ambient works. Both  discs of the new material are worthy & rewarding too…sure they are not quite up to  the caliber  of the original album tracks, but each of the four tracks are well conceived & entrancing in thier own right.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Roger Batty
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