The Big City

”The more susbtantial an individual’s aesthetic experience is, the sounder his taste, the sharper his moral focus, the freer—though not necessarily the happier—he is.."

Steve Roach’s entire career of music making has revolved around two general poles: generative music and pattern-based music. The former coalesces through time out of tendrils of sound, like the way gravity draws gas together in space until the resultant mass ignites into a star, while the latter is music that comes out of sequencers, building and layering patterns into textures that transform as they amble along. The great example of his generative music is the classic Structures from Silence, while my favorite of his pattern music albums is Skeleton Keys, a great album.

Two 2019 releases from Roach mix these ideas. Bloom Ascension is sequenced throughout, while Trance Archeology takes an arch shape that gradually generates itself into patterns that eventually drift away. Of these two, I find Bloom Ascension the most satisfying, every moment is one that leads me to the next, and the result is the kind of cleansing experience that Roach strives for. There are moments of this as well in Trance Archeology, but there is also a gap between the quality of the generative washes of sound, which are standard but not exceptional, and the patterns that start to build once the album reaches its title track.

Roach is prolific (making music is as much a daily personal practice for him as it is the idea of creating something to present to others, you can read more about his thoughts in this interview I did with him for Bandcamp)—and at least to my listening his pattern-based explorations have been the most consistently successful over the last five years. He’s just set up his own Bandcamp page where you can subscribe to his output, and that’s sure to deliver a lot of music.

“Anyone who can write with insight and authority about Alas No Axis, Sonic Youth, Elvis Costello…Missy Mazzoli and William Britelle, and…Mahler…is okay in my book.”

Darcy James Argue

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New Amsterdam Records
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