by Hans Stoeve
Steve Roach has created yet another memorable release with ATMOSPHERIC CONDITIONS. Having followed his career over many years, it's interesting to hear how his career has progressed from being inspired by Tangerine Dream, to the Dreamtime of the Australian Aborigines, the worldly sounds of Suspended Memories, and now music for the Void. With this release, I hear elements of past projects such as Suspended Memories, as well as influences from WORLD'S EDGE. Releases like SLOW HEAT spring to mind as well. Roach these days has a fairly defined sound, which most people who listen to ambient music would no doubt recognize, and I for one have never tired of it.
Starting off with a dense fog of sound, swirling masses of ambient textures, "Underground Clouds Over A Secret Grotto" is filled with a sense of depth and darkness, and just a hint of decaying detritus. It expands (sonically) not too long after, this dense sound world breaking down and settling into a quieter pace where subterranean aquatic environments seem to dominate. It's an underground, cavernous existence which bring back memories of Robert Rich's soundscapes, with their aquatic environments and primordial atmospheres. Mind you, both are masters of their ouvres, and it's only expected that both merge over into each others' territories from time to time. It's like the clouds parting before your eyes, and you as a listener are privileged to take in all that you can see. Imagine yourself in the middle of a rain forest and allowing yourself to take in all the different sounds. It's a nourishing soundworld Steve Roach has created for us. Five tracks nicely seguing into one another, this is typical Steve Roach-quality ambience; dreamy textures but with an edge to them. Later pieces, e.g. "In The Heat Of Distant Horizons", follow a different course, washes of sounds lulling the listener into a deep state of relaxation. There is a hint of rhythm midway through which keeps the piece moving along. Towards the end of the piece, Roach seems to move back towards a darker feel, as if the environment he has just created is closing in on itself, almost decomposing.
Some albums don't need lengthy reviews to get the message across. All I will say is that ATMOSPHERIC CONDITIONS is as good as it gets in terms of interesting, imaginative, well-produced ambient music. Steve Roach's music is always mysterious and beautiful to listen to. And the truth is that the voyage is still as exciting to be a part of as it always has been. Highly recommended.