Duel of the Bountiful Solo Ambient Gods: Steve Roach vs. Robert Rich

Message Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed

Poll Closing Date: Monday, 21 December 2020 00:00 (in 3 weeks)

Not implying that there are no other ambient gods, mind you, whether solo or otherwise, but these two have in common a boundless discography (including a couple of shared collaborations) that overwhelms by dint of its sheer quality.

Robert Rich
Steve Roach


pomenitul, Sunday, 22 November 2020 02:26 (six days ago) link

Not to mention the names Roach and Rich sound kind of similar and they, uh, live in adjacent states.

pomenitul, Sunday, 22 November 2020 02:28 (six days ago) link

It goes without saying that I haven't heard all of their releases, but my preference goes to Rich. His scope is more encompassing, which results in the occasional semi-dud, but at its very best (Stalker, with B. Lustmord, Humidity, Somnium, last year's excellent Tactile Ground, etc.), his music moves me more deeply than Roach's. The latter, on the other hand, seems to have attained the Eternal Return's metaphysical perfection from the get-go and I just don't think I'll ever fully make onto that exalted plane. I do love hanging out on its threshold, though.

pomenitul, Sunday, 22 November 2020 02:30 (six days ago) link

but you're not talking about California and Arizona

thousand-yard spiral stairs (f. hazel), Sunday, 22 November 2020 02:32 (six days ago) link

but I can picture them standing on either side of the border in Needles glaring at each other

thousand-yard spiral stairs (f. hazel), Sunday, 22 November 2020 02:33 (six days ago) link

I am. Unless this clueless non-American is missing something crucial here.

pomenitul, Sunday, 22 November 2020 02:35 (six days ago) link

just a suggestion that both artists occupy adjacent non-geographical states

thousand-yard spiral stairs (f. hazel), Sunday, 22 November 2020 02:42 (six days ago) link

Debatable imo. Like I said, they did collaborate, after all.

pomenitul, Sunday, 22 November 2020 02:49 (six days ago) link

Tough call, so... Jorge Reyes (who deeply deserves a thread)

There are three by Roach I sure have played a lot. Robert has more range, so I own more of them, and I particularly love Stalker and his animal voice synthesis pieces

Milton Parker, Sunday, 22 November 2020 02:51 (six days ago) link

Not familiar with Reyes, but I quickly googled him just now, and it looks like I've got some further exploring to do.

pomenitul, Sunday, 22 November 2020 02:53 (six days ago) link

these dudes along with other prolific heavy hitters like Vidna Obmana, Alio Die, Lustmord (and yeah, Jorge Reyes and probably Sam Rosenthal too) are sort of congruent with their own ambient subgenres, and hence their collaboration albums tend to be genre descriptions in themselves

thousand-yard spiral stairs (f. hazel), Sunday, 22 November 2020 02:57 (six days ago) link

and everyone should definitely spend some time listening to the first two Chac Mool albums (Jorge Reyes' old band)

thousand-yard spiral stairs (f. hazel), Sunday, 22 November 2020 03:06 (six days ago) link

Vidna Obmana, Alio Die, Lustmord

I considered throwing these three into the fray but a one-on-one packs more antagonistic punch (a bizarre criterion in the context of an ambient poll, admittedly).

pomenitul, Sunday, 22 November 2020 03:09 (six days ago) link

If you are down with John Diliberto out of those Echoes artists where most of the mentioned are often in the play lists, one of my favorites I found from that show is Marconi Union.

earlnash, Sunday, 22 November 2020 04:18 (six days ago) link

My gaia, Steve Roach has a TIMEROOM. Hard to loudly argue ambient with someone that has a TIMEROOM.

earlnash, Sunday, 22 November 2020 04:20 (six days ago) link

Isn't Marconi Union's "Weightless" supposed to the most relaxing ambient track ever recorded, proven by science?

thousand-yard spiral stairs (f. hazel), Sunday, 22 November 2020 04:34 (six days ago) link

the Timeroom is like a 7-11, the clock faces don't even have hands on them because they never close

thousand-yard spiral stairs (f. hazel), Sunday, 22 November 2020 04:37 (six days ago) link

Jorge Reyes, Steve Roach & Suso Sáiz's "Forgotten Gods" as Suspended Memories was my entry point to Roach.

I have long meant to delve into Chac Mool so thanks for the reminder.

stirmonster, Sunday, 22 November 2020 04:39 (six days ago) link

It is kinda weird that even though both of them go back to the UK/German synth pioneer groups, that the 'ambient' that comes out of dance music/IDM stuff does not really cross over all that much into the Echoes/new age music. Sound wise there definitely is some crossover, but I don't know as much on their fan bases for the music.

earlnash, Sunday, 22 November 2020 04:45 (six days ago) link

Outside ixlor that is...

earlnash, Sunday, 22 November 2020 04:46 (six days ago) link

Ned, where art thou?

pomenitul, Sunday, 22 November 2020 17:45 (six days ago) link

Why, I'm right here.

Ned Raggett, Sunday, 22 November 2020 18:12 (six days ago) link

Robert's a great artist and a very friendly fellow in person, Steve's an incredible interviewee and someone whose process I honor deeply. I am ultimately more of a Roach fan but that's happened more by default over the years thanks to having been on Projekt's mailing list since the late 1990s -- I just have more of his work by default.

Ned Raggett, Sunday, 22 November 2020 18:13 (six days ago) link

thx for the Reyes reminder, folks

howls of non-specificity (sleeve), Sunday, 22 November 2020 18:18 (six days ago) link

wow, I had no idea that on the fourth Chac Mool album (Caricia Digital) they went full-on new wave!

thousand-yard spiral stairs (f. hazel), Sunday, 22 November 2020 18:48 (six days ago) link

I like the sequencers on the new Roach album

he gets my vote because I've listened to more of his work over a longer time, but these days I'm more likely to put on Rich

Brad C., Sunday, 22 November 2020 19:10 (six days ago) link

This contest is Earth vs. Sky.

TheMacFromWayBack (JMac), Monday, 23 November 2020 01:30 (five days ago) link

yeah, unable to vote

but totally get the comparison. out of all the people in the bay area meditative / space music scene of the late 70's / early 80's, these two are both still feeling pretty vital, and the other thing binding them is their understanding of generative & endless forms. from the beginning Rich was all about his Stanford / Berkeley / Esalen 7-8 hour sleep concerts, and Roach's breakthrough piece was Structures which was pretty audibly a 30 minute excerpt of automated music that didn't need to end. in the flood of post 'Discreet' / 'Airports' calming ambient, Rich & Roach don't get mentioned enough in the historical curve of generative / cybernetic music. even the longer immersive sidelong 30 minute album sides of Berlin school sequencer music still used dramatic forms / climaxes -- these guys are pointing at the same ideas Douglas Leedy or Roland Kayn were pointing out in their early 70's liner notes of time scales in music beyond what the human body could perform

this key thing they have in common is also tied to the prolific output that has kept their profile relatively higher (the 'new release from Steve Roach' bandcamp email gets funnier every second or third week it goes out), but given how diverse and deep this scene is and how many of the most important records are still only cassette transfers on youtube, bringing up those peers is important

Jorge Reyes is really his own thing. if he hadn't passed early I want to believe his rep would be at the level Jon Hassell's finally gotten to now, but I have no idea how these things work

Milton Parker, Monday, 23 November 2020 03:59 (five days ago) link

Good post.

pomenitul, Monday, 23 November 2020 20:03 (five days ago) link

great thread

real muthaphuckkin jeez (crüt), Monday, 23 November 2020 20:38 (five days ago) link

honorable mention for my mans Erik Wøllo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYLs2cINAjE

real muthaphuckkin jeez (crüt), Monday, 23 November 2020 20:40 (five days ago) link

he's more like Forrest Fang or Klaus Schulze, tends to have a lot more going on in terms of melody, etc.

thousand-yard spiral stairs (f. hazel), Monday, 23 November 2020 20:44 (five days ago) link

Sounds really nice. Even more stuff to explore, thanks!

xp

pomenitul, Monday, 23 November 2020 20:47 (five days ago) link

good jumping-off points for exploring the genre: compilations "The Promises of Silence" on Projekt, and "Twilight Earth" on Timebase (there's two of the latter)

thousand-yard spiral stairs (f. hazel), Monday, 23 November 2020 20:49 (five days ago) link

honorable mention for my mans Erik Wøllo

Yeah he's put out plenty of solid work as well as Forrest, who I had the pleasure of interviewing a couple of years back as well.

Ned Raggett, Monday, 23 November 2020 21:03 (five days ago) link

I’m not really into space music but I love a few peaceful Steve Roach tracks like “Quiet Friend”. Vidna Obmana is someone I really want to devote more time too, heard some stuff recently that seemed right up my alley. I’m always looking for stuff like Discreet Music. Always been kind scared of Robert Rich, seems so dark.

brimstead, Monday, 23 November 2020 21:10 (five days ago) link

His best work draws upon a darker palette, yes, but much of it is serenely positive too. Offering to the Morning Fog, which came out earlier this year, is more becalming than not.

pomenitul, Monday, 23 November 2020 21:19 (five days ago) link

I’ll check it out

brimstead, Monday, 23 November 2020 22:57 (five days ago) link

the division between peaceful / dark approaches in this music is pretty interesting

I always took it that Roach made precisely three kinds of records -- sequencer/Berlin, peaceful/healing and then the darker isolationist strains, and that the breakthrough examples of each were 'Empetus', 'Structures From Silence' or 'Quiet Music', and then 'Magnificent Void'. But this thread got me back to his website where he defines his three styles as sequencer-driven Space Music, floating time-extension ambience, and... tribal-ambient (electro-acoustic hybrid, cue flutes & percussion >> 'Dreamtime Return')

Whereas I always grouped his second and third strains by mood & affect, the second being all his tranquil stuff like 'Structures' or 'Dreamtime' whether or not it was all electronic or helping itself to acoustic ritual traditions, and the third being the 'breakthrough' he made when he annexed the previous 15 years of ambient industrial and started sounding less like Hearts of Space and more like Zoviet-France / MB / Lustmord / everything on Projekt

Hearts of Space started the Fathom sublabel for Rich & Roach at that point to put out the darker stuff -- Fathom put out 'Stalker' and 'Void', and then Roach sensibly moved to Projekt and began his 3-8 albums a year schedule in earnest. Maybe it's because of the very distinct label branding I grouped his strains accordingly

Milton Parker, Tuesday, 24 November 2020 00:00 (four days ago) link

https://www.colpapress.com/products/music-from-the-hearts-of-space-guide-anna-turner-stephen-hill

^^ this is a pretty amazing comprehensive overview circa 1981 of everything Hill & Turner were drawing on for the 70s HoS shows. striking for including a lot of folk records which included space-adjacent tracks, a listing of the most space adagio movements of modern classical (key to understanding the curation for the soundtrack of Sagan's Cosmos). and also for his inclusion of cassettes & unreleased tapes locals had sent him, a few of which have gotten reissued like Joanna Brouk or Ariel Karma but it is kind of crazy to see a historical document like this helping to will a genre into existence

Milton Parker, Tuesday, 24 November 2020 00:00 (four days ago) link


You must be logged in to post. Please either login here, or if you are not registered, you may register here.