Ambient music pioneer Steve Roach’s records are always inviting the listener on a journey. The spaciousness of his musical textures and tones leave the locations and destinations open though. It could be through the recesses of your mind, the vastness of space, or the endlessness of Roach’s own native landscape, the American Southwest.
Its one of history’s idiosyncracies that the gentle, lush, and minimalist synthesizer music Roach helped pioneer is as associated with the elusive reaches of outer space as it is with the arid landscapes of the American Southwest (thanks respectively to the kosmische musik of such groups as Tangerine Dream on the one hand, and the rise of ambient and new age music in the 1970s American west.) Geographical and temporal associations are sticky, but the generosity of the music is often just as amenable to whatever trip or journey you choose to undertake yourself as you listen and Roach’s latest is no different.
Rest of Life is no great departure from what has come before it, and welcome as such. Clocking in at over two hours, Roach seems eminently comfortable with the fact that you will most likely use these compositions to soundtrack your head, home or car with its gentle movements and barely-there melodies.
Each of the album’s six tracks are characteristically long and meandering (the last track, “The Knowing Place,” alone is nearly an hour long). This is music in no hurry to get anywhere, content, sometimes surprisingly committed even, to finding a way to luxuriate in the moment. There is movement of course, although it’s hard to imagine these were anything other than improvisations. There are also slight variations in mood across the album’s duration. As the album progresses there is a move from more optimistic, major keys, to the use of more minor tones and longer pauses between sounds and riffs. The shift imbues the record with a faint sense of eeriness and pause, an affective ambiguity that might be a welcome change from the emotional indulgence of other deployments of the lush, various synthesizers to which Roach turns here.
The sonic palette however remains much the same across Rest of Life’s run time—crystalline tones and lusciously ethereal synthesizers are situated amidst washes of space and wind. This is music you could meditate to, or maybe music that evokes the mental state that accompanies mediation. Just as thoughts drift in and out of focus, so do Roach’s intentions and the sonic focus of his compositions, their sounds emerging and developing seemingly effortlessly, perhaps even naturally, from the air. (Jennifer Smart)