Published May 04, 2018In the 1980s, L.A.-based ambient music craftsman Steve Roach was in his 20s and an acolyte of the Berlin School of electronic music, such as Tangerine Dream. His sound has taken on many forms in the decades since, but it was in 1988 that he began to look beyond his influences for new sources of inspiration. Following a series of extended visits to the Australian outback, Roach released what has been described as his masterpiece, Dreamtime Return, an album that has now been remastered and reissued for its 30th anniversary.
Based thematically on an interpretation of an Aboriginal concept referred to as "the dreamtime," which has since been disputed by decades of anthropological research as inaccurate, Roach's music pairs dense synth pads, sleek leads and electronic drums with the didgeridoo, the dumbek and field recordings of Aboriginal singers. The synthesist seeks to step outside of time and space, succumbing to the borrowed conceptual framework as well as the vast, desert-like expanse of the outback. Roach's sonic journey is decidedly inward, as much as it is immense; a master of his craft, it's his keen ear that keeps the conceptual trappings from overtaking the beauty of his soundscapes.
The music of Dreamtime Return is some of the most evocative to have hailed from the American ambient scene and is certainly the highlight of Roach's gargantuan catalogue. Thirty years later, in a period of intense rediscovery of barely remembered classic albums, it's fitting that this iconic gem has been uncovered. (Telephone Explosion)