Review: Steve Roach – Sigh of Ages

Sigh of Ages often conjures a sound that I tend to attribute to Roach’s earlier efforts – in particular, the first two tracks are more straight-forward and dissectible than a large bulk of his recent material. It’s the bare sound of synthesisers, with each layer working in unison and yet undeniably detached from surrounding activity, cutting abruptly in and out of audibility. It’s still very much the “sonic incense” of his trademark – the music doesn’t distract your mind unless you consciously permit it to do so, and yet compared to later albums such as Dynamic Stillness or the Immersion series, these opening pieces feel more akin to music compositions rather than gigantic sonic landscapes.

Immediately following this is “Sentient Breath” – the centrepiece – which returns to the breathtaking audio panorama of recent Roach, swaying giddily like an infinite sea of delicate waves and groaning like a haunting phantom chorus. This is the era of his music that I prefer. So beautifully is it put together that it sounds as though Roach simply discovered it as opposed to crafted it, like a mystical alien environment translated into audio form.

“Longing to Be…” is the only other piece that calls upon his latter-era, though the remaining tracks are still of a high quality. “Morning of Ages” sounds like listening to Roach’s Structures from Silence album and then dreaming about it, with similar chord progressions blurred and shifted out of alignment, whilst “Return of the Majestic” ticks along on a tempo-driven loop, steadily pulsing with a surging mist of pads lurking quietly behind. Considering the fact that Sigh of Ages draws from several stylistic eras of Steve’s music, it works surprisingly well as a singular record – it’s quite possible to sink into the ambient drift of the first piece and only re-surface as the last fades into nothing.