Steve Roach - Bloom Ascension [Projekt Records - 2019]
Arizona native ambient electronic veteran Steve Roach has continued an incredibly prolific output long into his forty plus year career. Bloom Ascension is one of nine albums released in 2019 alone. While I've found some of these releases to contain more substance than others, the celestial beauty of his signature pad tones and reverberant soundspace remains intact in all of these releases.
Bloom Ascension is similar in sound to recent albums such as Molecules of Motion, or if you're looking further back, Arc of Passion or Immersion: Five. Filtered, arpeggiated 32 step sequences repeat and gracefully rise and fall in modulation, but don't shift drastically enough to disrupt the soothing stillness, gliding continuously in a gentle, constant momentum, like the water in a stream. There are no distinct melodies or chordal shifts, just a bubbling cloud-like murmur as permutations of a scale are observed. Faint percussion dances about the periphery of the arpeggiation, but doesn't strike any strong accents. It exists at an energy level below the bright timbres of albums like Electron Birth, Proof Positive or Empetus.
Roach has spent his life perfecting this Berlin School adjacent style, preserving the Germans' love of bright, clean tones and arpeggios, with quite a few less punctuated notes and explicitly sequenced passages, preferring improvisation and heavily layered, vaporous sound spaces. The four pieces found on Bloom Ascension are colorful, deep, and detailed, with subtle hints of emotion within their contemplative tonalities; a pleasant listen.
As for whether they distinguish themselves within Roach's massive canon, I find they do not, and that this is an increasingly difficult feat to manage among his massive catalog, containing many classics. Bloom Ascension doesn't have the vivid immediacy or unfamiliar tonalities of Skeleton Keys, or the haunting nocturnal vastness of Mercurius. It can't touch the fierce individuality of his older classics like Mystic Chords or Dreamtime Return. It takes its place in my mind as a lesser cousin of Molecules of Motion, something like a postscript.
Steve Roach's Bloom Ascension contains four quality works of arpeggio synthesis and ambient effects, but not much in the way of a theme or distinctive sound when compared to his other works. Ambient completists will enjoy the soft, sensitive timbres and thoughtful mood of this record, but most listeners would be best served to investigate Roach's more memorable works first.Josh Landry