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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 - Vortex Immersion Zone [Timeroom Editions - 2015]

From 2015 here we have another prime example of long-form ambience  from one of the masters of the form- US ambient legend Steve Roach. The release appeared on Roach’s own label Timeroom Editions and came in the form of a CD.

The disc comes in a four-panel digipak- this features a front cover image of overlaid color & shade. Inside we get a brief write-up discussing the track, and how it originally came about due to wanting to create an immersive ambient piece that could be played inside the vortex dome in Los Angeles.

The single track here comes at 73.07, and as one would expect & hope it’s very immersive & hypnotic- subtle shifting & ebbing in both its ambient & textural detail. And I really think that’s one of the intriguing elements of this track- the use of repetitive-yet-subtle shifting textual detail that Roach skilfully manipulates through the tracks stereo channels. Bringing to mind more lengthy & formal Nurse With Wound ambient albums like salt Marie Celeste, or similar mind altering & sonic hallucinogen laced ambience.

The tracks opens with a slow winding ‘n’ squelching synth tone, which is seemingly worming & snaking around one's head- as it does so you get nice reverb trails coming off it, and this increases the worming sensation. By around the third minute a waving & hovering ambient shimmer is playing at the edge of the track, and this gives the feel of the sound picture filling in the background. Pretty soon we also get the introduction of this slurred knock ‘n’ smash element- at times this move towards more rhythmic setting, but its always just pulling back from that. At around the nine & a half minute mark- the focus moves to interlocking & slowly twisting apart synth pluses- these have a fairly similar tonal range, and  this creates a nicely disorientating feel- as if you very being is slowly shredded & fed into the synth it's self. 

At around the sixteen & a half minute point, you can clearly make out the stretching & scuttling texture- this Roach starts to subtly twist, ebb, and bend through the ambience & the stereo channels. And from here on the sonic web of the track just gets denser, more spiraling, and cascading in its feel, as you get suck & wrapped deeper & deeper in the vortex of deep ambience.

By around the twenty-fifth minute, a subdued beat line is added in- this is a blend of deep knocking & higher pitched nudges.  At around the forty minute mark, the more set rhythmic elements drop out & we return to deep synth tunneling, and cascading shivers of scuttling. I won’t go on to chart the remainder of the track, as it nice for a listener to have some surprise- but the rest is equally effective in its subtle soundscape ebbs & shifts.

Vortex Immersion Zone is another skillful conceived & well-executed example of deep ambience from Mr. Roach. It manages to be mind-altering, mysterious, and at times calmly exhilarating. 

Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5

Roger Batty
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