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Steve Roach - Rest Of Life [ Projekt - 2023]

The title of ambient pioneer Steve Roach's latest masterpiece, Rest of Life, is a dead giveaway for what awaits listeners to this epic, slow-moving work, which clocks in at over two hours.

Rest, in one sense, is repose and that cannot be argued with – the work is restful, relaxed, and as soft as a warm blanket. The other meaning of rest is, of course, a remainder, that which is leftover, or, temporally, that which has yet to pass or be used up. The delicate and generative sweeps of Roach's minimalist compositions engage – perform, even – both meanings of the work's title. The music overtakes with a subtlety that is rare among contemporary practitioners of the genre. To "listen" to Rest of Life is to be plunged into a temporality that is entirely out of step with that of everyday experience, hurried along by tasks and goals that put one squarely on the path of a time pre-determined, all too aware of where things are headed and why.

Even those deeply skeptical of the experience economy will find themselves immersed in a kind of time that is both present and eternal, where you are both fully cognizant and yet totally freed from any specific object of contemplation. It would make sense to say that the shorter, preceding tracks on this release prepare you for the hour-long final track, "The Knowing Place", but that isn't exactly true. Heard in succession, there were moments when I wasn't sure where I was in the album's progression, and after confirming that I was in fact at the final track, I learned to stop worrying and just let it be. What might go missing in any perfunctory recapitulation of Rest of Life is the dissonance that results from repeated listenings, which cannot be attributed to Roach; rather, it is a necessary symptom of stepping out of the teleology of late capitalist time. I found myself wanting to return to the place I had experienced, not the specific turn of musical phrasing or the like. I don't know if that is a compliment Roach would welcome, but it was unavoidable – the feeling of having escaped some internal, ideological structure of time while listening. But there it is, for better or worse.
 
Rest of Life moves and grows like an organic, autonomous being, and it might be overstating the obvious to say that there is a pain, or homesickness, that accompanies such a release. Unlike the plastic arts, which provide an object (or the conspicuous absence of one) to return to, music is bereft of the kind of dumb materiality that anchors and engenders experience. Amen. Roach knows this, and the sly fox, who has been at this for over four decades now, continues to turn ephemerality into something concrete. 
 
Very highly recommended for fans of Roach's previous works, and for anyone who is ready to hear what the rest holds.
 

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

Colin Lang
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