Review Summary: Changed my Life3 of 3 thought this review was well written
Ambient music. Some people have a very selective taste in ambient and others appreciate the genre as a whole. Some ambient music sounds distorted and glitchy and some sounds very wholesome, organic and pure. Whether or not you like the genre, if you listen carefully to the music on any given ambient album, you’ll notice it invokes a lot of emotion and feeling like none of which you can be satisfied with other kinds of music. And who wouldn’t enjoy a good ambient album every once and again? With its diverse style and synthesizer based sound; to me, it brings out your imaginative side, allows the creative juices to flow out and succumb to the item in which your art flows. It allows you to explore the outer boundaries of music where you’re not distracted by vocalists or guitars or drums, just pure sound. You could be floating in deep space or envision something in your mind that is beyond understanding. It’s the kind of music that’s greatly appreciated after a long tiring day at the beach driving on an empty road right at sunset. These are some of the many scenarios you can think of when listening to ambient music, which is why now I must introduce you to this artist.
Unlike many artists, like Brian Eno, Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream etc. who have created ambient masterpieces, there is no one more deserving then the Steve Roach to be a major part of the meditative and spacey side to ambient music. Steve Roach started his music career off in 1982 with the album Now and then went on to make such great ambient pieces such as Dreamtime Return and Structures in Silence, however you have not heard of the real Steve Roach until you’ve thoroughly listened to and explored the gargantuan goliath of an album that is Mystic Chords & Sacred Spaces.
I’ll cut right to the chase here: This is the best ambient album ever made
Released in 2003, Not only is this album just 5 minutes shy of being a 5 hour long album, it is the most peaceful, thought provoking, beautiful, calming albums I’ve ever listened to and that is not an overstatement. There are a total of 4 CD’s this album is equipped with, and every single one of them is pure gold and when you listen to the album, you should be visualizing what you’re listening to based on the song titles or just overall mood you get from the album.
The album starts off with the first CD which includes 5 songs with each over 10 minutes long, which is the perfect length, if not longer, for songs like these. Each of these songs invoke a happy and warm mood which is the perfect feeling to have on first listen and they all fill mine and (should) fill your heads with different stories, ideas and themes. For example, when listening to Palace of Nectar, I imagined myself as a honey bee inside of a giant nest flying around with all the other bees, and the fourth song Presence, has the feeling of weightlessly climbing a giant steep mountain and ever so slowly trying to climb the top. One thing you’ll notice is that these songs never get too loud or too soft, they’re always in this one airy and reverberated dynamic and it is a perfect feeling to have for an album like this. The first CD ends really strongly on the track Vortex Ring which is extremely spacey and a lot more organic and open than the previous track Presence which felt claustrophobic and airy (almost as if you’re inside of a vortex). Hope you don’t fall asleep yet because it just gets better from here.
In terms of enjoyment, calmness and creativity, the next CD has the same if not more potential as the last CD had, except with a different approach to the mood and sound. The second CD starts off with the song Wren and Raven in which we hear some very interesting bird sounds, as if the album was recorded in a rainforest with heavy fog. The sound of the second CD from first 3 tracks move into a more dismal and sombre sound even touching the sounds of dark ambient (especially on the songs The Otherworld and Wonderworld) in contrast to the first CD, but then the mood turns to warm and sunny as we hear the songs Threshold and Dream Body and it lightens up the whole rest of the CD. The rest of the CD has the same overall vibe as it mixes the dark ambient sounds of Wonderworld and the warm spacey sounds of Dream Body. The Nameless is quite possibly the strongest song on this entire album because it blends dark ambient and beautiful sounding warm space ambient in a very open and thought-provoking way with its extremely echoed, delayed and reverberated synthesizers with some samples (and maybe hints of vocals in the song Presence…?). Another thing about this CD is that it flows from one song to the next unlike the last CD. The best part is about the flow between one song to the other is that you can actually tell when a new song starts up based on the mood that the song provides, if you’re paying well enough attention.
The third CD is a bit of a stretch from CD’s 1 and 2, but doesn’t go too far out of the realms of what he’s already done. While the last two CD’s featured both a mix of warm sunny ambient and dark ambient, this CD, especially the first half, just sound so…euphoric. The song structures are so much more developed and have more intricate notes and chords placed and just the songs itself are more diverse and interesting than the last. It starts out strong, once again, with the intriguingly beautiful songs Open Heart and Turn to Light. As the songs progresses into the other ones, still keeping the same general sound, we’re hit with a stream of songs that sound very sparse, spacey and minimal (songs like Essence of Phaedra, Left Perfectly Alone and A Subtle Body Current) and they all sound beautiful together; not to mention you can really get lost in the sound, but in a good way. The third CD though has one song from it called Grounding Place near the end of the album, which is, and has been for a very long time, my favorite ambient song of all time. The extremely calming and euphoric nature of this track inspires me to do so much more with my life and it is bound to inspire you as well. The CD ends on a rather louder but still very calm song The Spiral of Time’s Fire Burns On, which ends the CD quite epically and leaves a bright and solemn mood on the listener.
The fourth CD on the other hand, has only 1 song that stretches out to 73 minutes in length and can be only described in two words. Bleak and Sparse. It features, what sounds like, one echoed synthesizer just firing off notes at random. This song is so void of anything that it’s as if you’re walking down an endless sandy beach and the sky is barely visible through the thick layer of fog and clouds, however there is no beach. It is just only you, the layer of fog and sand that surround you and this song. It wouldn’t matter if this song played forever because once you’ve heard the first 5 minutes of the song, which is pretty much all you are going to hear for the next 73 minutes and what a treat it is. While it’s a very empty song, it is still probably one of the best songs by Steve Roach as you never want the song to end in fear that this album will soon be over and you’re exploration of creativity and thought has come to an end.
There is no doubt about it. This release was the ultimate exploration of how vast and thought provoking ambient music can be. It allowed me to travel to new worlds, enter ones pre-existing and it is just the most overall interesting, beautiful, atmospheric and bucolic album I’ve ever heard. It goes down as the greatest ambient album ever made and hopefully some of you will share my opinion. However, with saying this, anyone who is interested in listening to it should listen from start to finish with maybe a few breaks in between to fully love fall in love with it, because to some of you it maybe not be the most captivating, but for me it was incredibly captivating. Or you could listen to it as you go to sleep, or reading a book etc. I prefer anyway to get you to listen to this album and enjoy it.
Ambient masterpieces, like this one, actually come around pretty often. There have been so many amazing ambient albums that it’s hard to keep up with which ones are the best. Well, this is one of the first ambient albums I’ve listened to and out of all of the many of them I’ve listened to over the years, this one is by far the most phenomenal.