Live at Grace Cathedral
by Sylvain Lupari, Guts Of Darkness
May 2010

Steve Roach's sound universe always remains astounding. The man likes challenging the magic of sonorities with recordings where the spiritual presence is the premise of his inspirations. A 2007 recorded concert at the mythical Grace Cathedral in San Francisco on June 29th, LIVE AT GRACE CATHEDRAL wants to be the witness of the sound risks that Steve Roach likes to tackle. With its architectural curves which form all sound reverberations, Grace Cathedral is the ideal place to structure the modulations and oscillations of an ambient music where the slow and morphic synth strata follow the architectural arcs of this old cathedral. To capture all the dimension and depth of his music, Steve Roach proceeds to a very direct recording, hanging microphones in the heights of the cathedral. This making, murmurs of a hypnotized by elongated synth flights adding a spectral dimension to Steve Roach music.

Soft ghostly layers open Embracing the Space. Synth layers which entangled delicately, forming a peaceful musical maelstrom which increases its intensity by the only strength of its sound extents. Roach is the master of lifelessness musical and the reverberating curves of Grace Cathedral shape marvelously the bends of its sound arcs. Even in suspension and reflection mode, Roach music infiltrates with a divine harmony, at the mercy of his synth modulations, a peaceful flashback to Suspended Memories and the sublime STRUCTURES FROM SILENCE. Modeling his music with all his creative assets, Steve Roach takes advantage of the passivity his works to create infinite musical possibilities. Discreet, the angelic voices which wind around morphic strata of the second part add a spectral dimension which well suits the pertinence of its environment. The strength of the synthesist lies in its capacity to transform his long ambient works. Thus, after the slow immersion of Embracing the Space's first two parts, we dive into a sound labyrinth of multiple tribal breaths. Nuances blow, dragging their echoes among sinuous strata, reminding the prosaic universe of THE SERPENT'S LAIR and MYSTIC CHORDS & SACRED SPACES.

With strange tones and reverberating waves of sinister breaths, Merging with Grace's opening seems to arise more from abyssal depths of an infernal world than from curves of a pious cathedral. Majestically, Roach adds a subtle sound limpidity which sparkles in a diagram of plasma fusion. But the tone remains dark and very penetrating, even with the whispers of a crowd staggered by this immense sound sail which swallows up any living species. We are in the depths of POSSIBLE PLANET, and heavily we slide towards more musical strata breathing a heavy spirituality. These increase their modular intensity with powerful synthesized pads which spawn among the only latent percussion on this double-disc opus. A discreet dynamism which re-appears on the third part with its strange jerky sound, unique to Roach's sound world, hiccupping sequences stemming from a tribal world into trance dances, beneath a horde of strata as melodious as it is disturbing. Intensly, Roach guides us towards its meandering subtleties with magic dexterity, so much that the emotion filters this ambient performance. It quietly fades away with a striking fourth part where STRATA's powerful reverberations copulate with the serenity of a synth delivering its last breaths. A crossing between Michael Stearns' Chronos, DYNAMIC STILLNESS, and the Immersion series.

For me, Steve Roach remains the reference point of ambient music. He is one of the only artists in this domain to create an emotion from slow modulations which, to many ears, seem abstract. And yet if we listen to it very closely, we hear, and we perceive all the density and the intensity of a solitary man who is led by an existential quest. LIVE AT GRACE CATHEDRAL is a kind of greatest hits of his spiritual music. There are lots of winks and references to titanic works such as Suspended Memories, ARC OF PASSION, DYNAMIC STILLNESS, LANDMASS, THE MAGNIFICENT VOID, the Immersion series and the unique STRUCTURES FROM SILENCE. His recording at Grace Cathedral has a highly particular and unique character, worthy of contemporary music masterpieces. LIVE AT GRACE CATHEDRAL is no to be missed, which only a detailed listening can explain. A chef-d'oeuvre!

Live at Grace Cathedral

CD out of stock
Live at Grace Cathedral
Steve Roach
2010 Timeroom Editions 23 (CD) – double CD
Reviewed by Electroambient Space, Guts Of Darkness, Hypnagogue, Tokafi

An essential live recording revealing a powerful moment in Steve's live performance history. An extended set of sacred sonic spaces and immersive atmospherics embrace the senses within the expanse of San Francisco's Grace Cathedral.

In Steve's words: "Performing at San Francisco's Grace Cathedral was a dream come true in many ways, and a high point in my live performance memories over the last decade. It's a fitting release to commence the times. This will be the first live recording I've released with the natural reverberant sound of the performance space predominant in the mix. The expansive reverent ambience of Grace Cathedral is the perfect environment to experience this music within. To honor this space, I built a set that offered options to directly respond to the unique acoustic properties I knew I was heading into. The influence of the massive space and the spirit it contained were unseen collaborators holding the music and all of us in a dynamic embrace. From my performance location, I could hear and see the sounds constantly blooming outwards in the space hovering above the audience, collecting energy and then receding away within the expanse of the cathedral. I would spontaneously respond to this sense by shaping, carving, holding and releasing the music back into the void as the night evolved. Merging with Grace indeed.

"Because this recording utilizes microphones in the space, along with a small blend of the sound board mix, the audience is sometimes heard, as it's all a part of the living breathing space created that evening. I made the choice to not include any audience response or applause at the conclusion of the concert, since outside the live context, ending the recording into the deeper silence felt more appropriate." -- Steve Roach, January 2010

Disc 1
1. Embracing the SpaceMP343:21 
Disc 2
1. Merging with GraceMP373:08 

Note: MP3 excerpts are edited medleys.

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