A longstanding leader in contemporary electronic music, composer and multi-instrumentalist Steve Roach drew on the beauty and power of the Earth's landscapes to create lush, meditative soundscapes influential on the emergence of ambient and trance. Born in California in 1955, Roach -- inspired by the music of Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, and Vangelis -- taught himself to play synthesizer at the age of 20. Debuting in 1982 with the album Now, his early work was quite reminiscent of his inspirations, but with 1984's Structures from Silence, his music began taking enormous strides. The album's expansive and mysterious atmosphere was partly inspired by the natural beauty of the southwestern U.S. Subsequent works, including 1986's three-volume Quiet Music series honed Roach's approach, his dense, swirling textures and hypnotic rhythms akin to environmental sound sculptures.
In 1988, inspired by the Peter Weir film The Last Wave, Roach journeyed to the Australian outback, with field recordings of aboriginal life inspiring his acknowledged masterpiece, the double-album Dreamtime Return. A year later, he teamed with percussionist Michael Shrieve and guitarist David Torn for The Leaving Time, an experiment in ambient jazz. After relocating to the desert outskirts of Tucson, Arizona, Roach established his own recording studio, Timeroom. In the years to follow, he grew increasingly prolific, creating both as a solo artist and in tandem with acts including Robert Rich, Michael Stearns, Jorge Reyes, and Kevin Braheny -- in all, he recorded close to two-dozen major works in the '90s alone, all of them located at different points on the space-time continuum separating modern technology and primitive music.
His album roster from that decade includes Strata (1991), Artifacts (1994), Well of Souls (1995), Amplexus (1997), and Dust to Dust (1998). Early Man was released on Projekt in early 2001, followed by one of his many collaborations with Vidna Obmana, Innerzone. Throughout the remainder of the 2000s, Roach remained extremely prolific. His release schedule included the Projekt titles Trance Spirits (with Jeffrey Fayman) and the quadruple-disc Mystic Chords & Sacred Spaces, Spirit Dome and Somewhere Else (with Obmana), Fever Dreams, Mantram, and Nada Terma (with Byron Metcalf and Mark Seelig), and the ongoing Immersion series, Arc of Passion, and Stream of Thought (with Erik Wøllo). He also self-released several titles on his own through Timeroom Editions. Over the next decade, Roach would show no signs of slowing as he continued with a non-stop slew of new material under his own name, as well as collaborations and soundtrack work. Though new volumes of work appeared at a clip of more than three albums per year, standouts included more collaborations with Byron Metcalf, 2013's Future Flows, and 2014's disparate releases of arid road trip music on The Desert Collection and ambient explorations of mortality and humanity on The Delicate Forever. Roach began constructing an extensive analog modular synthesizer system in 2014, and his 2015, the album Skeleton Keys was composed entirely using this setup. ~ Jason Ankeny