5 Essential Steve Roach CDs

The #2 Icon of Echoes and His 5 Essential CDs

Steve Roach has s released nearly 50 solos albums and just as many collaborations, so narrowing his  output down to 5 CDs is daunting. So I have limited myself to pure Steve Roach solo albums, leaving behind great works with his Suspended Memories group and his pair of CDs with Robert Rich.    Roach is so prolific that albums often blend together, but when you start pulling them out over  an expanse of time you can hear the monumental shifts in sound he’s explored over the last 30 years.

Steve Roach is #2 among 20 Icons of Echoes and of all the icons, I’d say he’s made the most uncompromising and challenging music, often forcing listeners ears into new and uncomfortable terrain.

SYou can see a complete list of the 20 Icons of Echoes.

1 Dreamtime Return
Dreamtime Returnis more than a seminal recording that has influenced a generation of musicians. It’s a portal into a universe where technological designs merge deep inside primordial moods. Roach found the nexus of primal didgeridoo growls and synthesizer drones and orchestrated them into this techno-tribal opus. When you shout out at the edge of the world, Dreamtime Return is echo that calls back to you.

2 Structures from Silence
The quintessential slo-mo electronic album and a disc that musicians have been imitating since its release in 1984. It only has three tracks, each of them long explorations of glacial chordal shifts and aurora borealis curtains of sound.  Even in 1984 Steve Roach had an original sound palette and it has not dated a second.

4 Empetus
This may be the most concise Steve Roach album and came at the end of his sequencer phase, his last flame-out on Berlin school electronics. But he was already taking it somewhere new. Unlike Roach’s usual CD long expanses, these are bite-size compositions that do their job, quickly, efficiently and with every moment counting. Roach leaves you breathless in a maze of synchronized spinning patterns only to pick you up and send you whirling again.

3 Artifacts
In the liner notes to Artifacts, cover photographer William Lesch writes how he likes to “reach out and touch something ancient with a modern hand” in his pictures. I’ve been stealing that line ever since. It perfectly describes the music Roach was making in the early 1990s. The primitive: clay pots, ocarinas, didgeridoos, and percussion mix with the technological: environmental sounds, synthesizers and samplers. Roach made a music that could be from some ancient time past, or 20 minutes into the future.

5 Light Fantastic
After a decade of music that employed didgeridoos, sticks and stones as much as technology , Steve Roach returned to his synthesizers full force on Light Fantastic, creating a music born from his techno-tribal rhythms but morphed into a Blade Runner urban landscape. Grooves shape-shift in a techno-zombie dance as modulating chords descend like cloud banks roiling out of a desert horizon. This isn’t the Steve Roach of sequencer dervishes like Empetus, but neither is it the organic techno-tribal grooves of albums like Artifacts.

Other than the first three, I could have easily chosen from at least half a dozen other Steve Roach albums, and next time, maybe I will.  Let us know what your choices would be.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

  4 comments for “5 Essential Steve Roach CDs

  1. I only found Steve Roach a year or so ago. (I’m sure through Echoes…) It can be challenging to swim through Steve’s Epic Output. Thanks for putting together this concise list as a great starting point!

  2. hello,
    i’m a long time listener of steve roach, i kind of agree with some of your choices but your selection really don’t match mine, if we talk about essentials. But as you say narrowing his output is difficult.
    Nevertheless, i would add one, i think, very important : “Mystic Chords & Sacred Spaces”, a four cd exploration, very uptlifting. cheers

    • Yes, completely agree on Mystic Chords & Sacred Spaces (Oracle!). Also worth checking out Midnight Moon (Midnight Loom being one of his top tracks), Dynamic Stillness, the epic electric album/track Destination Beyond, Low Volume Music, The Magnificent Void (much darker than his other work), and the new Delicate Forever.

  3. Not too difficult to add ‘Skeleton Keys’ here and remove ‘Empetus’, IMO. While similar in contents and relative structure the recent recording simply blows fire and lightning while looking forward and backward at the same time. Just too good to ignore or leave off.

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