On The Turntable: Steve Roach's Structures From Silence July 19 2017
Steve Roach's Structures From Silence is one of those classic California records that, not too long ago, could be found languishing in bins up and down the coast for next to nothing. Like Bobby Brown's Live and Laura Allan's Reflections, it's the kind of record that you never would have even done a double take on in the pre-internet age, until your more adventurous friend placed it in your hands and, ignoring your skepticism, just said "trust me." It's funny because looking at the cover now, it looks amazing; I want every record I stumble upon in 2017 to look just like this, but there was a time when myself, and hundreds of others like me, would have flipped right past this corny bullshit in hot pursuit of psych and punk and funk and soul.
Which is not to say that nobody knew about Steve Roach until recently, he's a composer and analog synthesizer pioneer who has been successfully and prolifically recording ambient music for 35+ years; it's just that it took a long time for the world of record collectors to catch up. Roach began playing synthesizer at the age of 20 in 1975, inspired by the usual suspects of Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk. His early recordings, first with the group Moebius and later solo, are interesting pieces of synth-pop and Berlin School electronics, but it is with 1984's Structures From Silence, his third album, that Roach forges his own path.
Originally released on the pioneering new age/ambient label Fortuna (Bernard Xolotl, Emerald Web, Michael Shrieve), Roach spent months working on the album, listening only to his own work, endlessly tweaking and "fine tuning," spending much of his time in silence, the departure and return to which being the measuring stick he used to judge his compositions ("For me, the essence of this music is what is felt when it ends, a returning to the silence," he writes on the original sleeve notes). The result is nearly 60 minutes of perfectly restrained and flowing, slow building, pure ambient. Structures From Silence is a wonderful record that deserves to be in the conversation with the likes of Eno, Hassell, Riley, etc., and Telephone Explosion's brand new LP reissue is a welcome release, especially since I haven't seen a cheap used copy in years now, not even in Marin County.