STEVE ROACH: The Sky Opens (2020)
Updated: Mar 5, 2021
“This is a magnificent live album which joins a huge list of classics that Steve Roach has aligned since a couple of years”
1 Structures from Silence 10:11
2 Mercurius Presence 6:32
3 The Mystic Within 11:26
4 The Sky Opens 11:53
5 Merge Infinite 31:19
1 The Continent 8:17
2 Songline 5:31
3 Time of the Ancients 7:21
4 Magnificent Gallery 4:07
5 Circular Ceremony 7:11
6 Looking for Safety 14:17
(CD/DDL 118:05) (V.F.)
(Ambient, Berlin School, Tribal Ambient)
In the same stride as the Journeys to the Infinite's compilation, the American label Projekt Records has just produced another form of compilation with this very beautiful album in concert that Steve Roach gave in the First United Methodist Church in Pasadena, California, on August 30, 2019. An exceptional place where the engineers of his team have placed dozens of microphones in strategic locations, in terms of sound and acoustics. The noises outside the music have been all removed, so that we can feel and follow the music circulating without hindrance on the curves, the walls and the ceilings of this mythical Methodist church. It's so successful that I am not even sure there were people during this recording. Hence this impression of Best Of…. THE SKY OPENS offers a 2-hour rendezvous that goes from the album Structures from Silence, released in 1984, to a new vision of Dreamtime Return that Steve reworked and remixed in May 2018. So, almost 35 years of music recreated in the pure tradition of the Californian musician's visions with a slow start, a passage of excellent Berlin School unpublished here, to finally reach the magnificent lands of Dreamtime Return. A magnificent album that joins a huge list of classics that Steve Roach has aligned since a couple of years.
It's a version cut of about twenty minutes that Structures from Silence lands between our ears. This is the first time that Steve has interpreted this title in concert and this version makes me ardently wish that he'll perform the whole album one of these days. A splendid interpretation with a 2 D vision of these sleeping wings which hum us a lunar fable which sticks to all possible visions. The presence of Mercurius Presence is amply justified here with its winged movements and its delicate line of aerial melody which follows the logic behind Structures from Silence. Stripped of its layers of reverberations and embellished by a piano selfish of its notes in the ambient universe of Steve Roach, The Mystic Within brings us to the borders of its dark and hefty music. It's on the other hand a less dark vision of Within the Mystic that we find in Mystic Chords & Sacred Spaces, a quadruple album of mystical music produced in 2003, that awaits our senses here. Next comes the sublime title-track which animates the music of this double album of a Berlin School very precise to the vision of Steve Roach. The movement comes from a large luminous reflection which gives the signal to the sequencer and to its multiple static rhythm lines to sink and jump like a volcano spitting its explosions of magma. It's the beginning of a brilliant cacophony of tinkles which remains and swirls on a circular conveyor, like thousands of balls and their reflections sparkling in a mass where tap dancing and organic dialogues invite themselves in a rhythmic Tower of Babel erected by a sequencer very generous of its flow and of its colors. Grand morphic synth wings are flying over it while some huge chimes scare these millipedes with tiny bells on their feet in this impressive orchestration of nocturnal stridulations.
Magnificent and intense, this dynamic structure evaporates like dust transported by the winds of Merge Infinite. My only memory I have of a track called Merge goes back to Empetus, one of Steve Roach's most rhythmic albums. It's not totally Merge here, but a form that comes close enough to it but in a boisterous frenzied rhythm that eats our both hemispheres in a pure Berlin School. So, you have a good idea! The keys alternate eagerly, a little like six hands were on the sequencer and the oscillators of rhythms. The lines amaze by varying their tones in variable speeds while following the diagram of the synth pads which decorate the background of Merge Infinite. We are in the land of Skeleton Keys with this brilliant title, its rhythmic approach and vision are more musical and fluid in THE SKY OPENS. A splendid piece with stopping points which relaunch the structure with more vigor until bringing it to the gates of tranquility. CD 2 offers a summary of Dreamtime Return, with essences of Return to the Dreantime, with a different approach which gives a breath of fresh air to the chosen tracks. The percussions are incredible in The Continent which seems slower, more enveloping. Songline's aboriginal didgeridoo and percussions are so close to our ears that we believe it. Ditto for the throat choirs and the raucous breezes of Time of the Ancients. The sound texture is such, that it looks like it was recorded around a campfire! And the meditative phases of Dreamtime Return progress to throw themselves into Looking for Safety, the 2018 version, which ends an incredible concert to the grandeur of the character's mysticism that has become Steve Roach over the years. Sublime from A to Z, I would have liked to be there! Limited to 1000 CDs, this is another excellent achievement from Projekt Records.
Sylvain Lupari (May 1st, 2020) *****
Available at Projekt Records Bandcamp