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Steve Roach | Skeleton Keys

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Skeleton Keys

by Steve Roach

Experience the beauty of 100% pure analog modular sequencer-based music from an American electronic pioneer.
Genre: Electronic: Electronica
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
clip
1. The Only Way In
7:15 album only
clip
2. The Function Inside the Form
8:23 album only
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3. It’s All Connected
9:28 album only
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4. Outer Weave
5:12 album only
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5. Symmetry and Balance
9:35 album only
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6. Saturday Somewhere
10:50 album only
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7. Escher's Dream Is Dreaming
9:48 album only
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8. A Subtle Twist of Fate
13:24 album only

ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
There's a worldwide analog modular synthesizer-based music resurgence in full swing. Pioneering electronic musician Steve Roach taps into the zeitgeist on Skeleton Keys, a 74-minute album recorded using Synthesizers.com's large format analog modular synthesizer/sequencer-based system. These are eight emotional and mind-expanding spiraling mandalas-of-sound made from interwoven tapestries of melody, rhythm, tone and musical space. The result is warm and engaging retro-futurism, a continuing evolution upon the musical structures Steve has unlocked in the restless pursuit of his soundquest.

“A lot of artists are going in (the analog electronic) direction these days, but few have the mastery and control that Steve Roach reveals.” – John Dilberto / Echoes Radio review

From Textura:

One way electronic pioneer Steve Roach vitalizes his music is by not not only anticipating the future but by looking backwards, too. In the case of Skeleton Keys, he returned to his analog modular sequencer-based roots by recording all eight of the album’s long-form tracks using a large-format analog-modular synthesizer/sequencer-based system (a photo on the inner sleeve shows Roach standing in front of the large apparatus with its many rows and columns of cables, switches, and knobs).

Representative of the recording’s general style, “The Only Way In” inaugurates Skeleton Keys with shimmering swaths of twinkling synthesizers, dense tapestries whose individual elements pulsate, spiral, and weave at varying pitches. Like the Mobius Strip-like design intimated by its title, “Escher’s Dream is Dreaming” features sequencer patterns that literally feel as if they’re looping in on themselves. One occasionally hears in such material echoes of ‘70s artists like Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze. There are moments during “The Function Inside the Form,” for instance, where the former’s influence is strongly evident, but it’s hardly the only piece where the presence of such precursors looms.

Roach’s music naturally has evolved throughout his multi-decade career; in recent years, it’s developed into something one might call tribal-techno, an hypnotic form of music where synthesizer patterns serenely drift on delicate beds of percussion, and certain tracks on the album do, in fact, gravitate in the style’s direction, among them “It’s All Connected” and “Saturday Somewhere.” A number of these retro-futuristic settings unfold at a surprisingly fast clip. Though slow-motion washes might exhale in the background of “Outer Weave,” their glacial movement is offset by rapid percussive pitter-patter that powers the twanging cut at a breakneck pace. Once its kinetic rhythms lock into position, the prototypical Roach setting unfolds with a mathematical precision.

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Reviews


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Richard Gurtler

Feel the magic, feel the energy, feel the passion of the genius!!!
"Skeleton Keys" chapter, using throughout 2014 and 2015 the Synthesizers.com large format analog modular system, can easily be labeled as a monster project dedicated to the re-explorations of magnificently sparkling, sequencer-based patterns. Obsessed with this sound since the very first days on the scene in the late 70's, Steve Roach, the iconic sound architect, again activates all his audible insignias in the Timeroom in order to demonstrate his innate wizardry and flexibility within the genre he was born to enhance. Released on Projekt at the end of May 2015, the theme is attractively displayed by elegant 6-panel digipak featuring catchy cover images by Kyle Wright (of Diophantine Discs) and artist and modular photographs by Adam Fleishman, while the graphic design is handled, as usual by Sam Rosenthal. Behind the mastering desk is Howard Givens of Spotted Peccary fame.

"The Only Way In" ignites the journey and briskly transports the listener into stunningly euphoric sonic realms, with immediate connection to the Master's fully blooming wizardry, highlighted by an array of glistening sequences, which persistently emerge, swirl, helix and enthrall. This is a real celebration of 100% pure analog sound, welcome to the musical dome of ultimate passion and dedication!!! "The Function Inside The Form" gets closer to Berlin School reminiscences, although gratifyingly reinforced here and there by some buzzing cyber-tech mesmerism and elusive grooves. The next piece, "It's All Connected", straightly shifts into utterly laid-back, yet strongly hypnotic, high-tech-infused rhythms meticulously guarded by ethereally undulating blankets. Wow, a 9 and half minutes long sonic elixir reveals all its magic, bravo!!! Electronica cybernetica continues its domination on "Outer Weave", it shifts to much higher speed, but translucently polished, though celestial waves are still safely hanging above. They even overlap to "Symmetry And Balance", which emphasizes with vivid mixture of sharpened sequences, continuously pulsing, oscillating and painting mindscaping, trance-charged mandalas. "Saturday Somewhere" gorgeously blends exquisitely carved, refreshingly mesmerizing and hauntingly elevated rhythms with intangibly sweeping washes, while some nice Kraftwerkian feel is thrown in as well. "Escher's Dream Is Dreaming" pushes the magic even further, with all those splendidly ear-tickling embellishments, spiritedly bouncing, when the listener is bathed in an awe-inspiring perpetual epic of sequenced magnificence. This is a truly delightful listening experience and certainly one of the pinnacles!!! With 13 and half minutes the longest composition, "A Subtle Twist Of Fate", closes this essential album with an ultra rapid sequencing work, which moves through stirringly nuanced portals and forms fascinatingly spiraling images.

It's no secret that I was never really into Berlin School electronics and when it goes to Steve's sequencer-driven discography, I personally prefer more embracing slow-motion splendor such as "Living The Dream" or "Today" for example. Nevertheless, 74-minute "Skeleton Keys" collection grows on me with each new exploration, it's always fully rewarding, precisely polished in every single detail to its absolute perfection, no matter if listening through the speakers or with my headphones on. I am absolutely amazed by its lushly flavored scenario, each track is different, yet the overall feel remains always highly homogeneous. The old vintage sounds are masterfully amplified by Steve's own signatures, which keep on expanding over the course of his stellar career spanning across the four decades. Feel the "Skeleton Keys", feel the magic, feel the energy, feel the passion of the genius, who was born to enrich our lives with his infinite virtuosity and visionary!!! To make the story complete, of course don't hesitate to explore also "The Skeleton Collection 2005-2015" released on Steve's Timeroom Editions with 5 tracks originally recorded in 2005, while the remaining 3 pieces were created during February 2015. And last but not least, for all vinyl aficionados, there is available a 180 gram LP version "Skeleton Keys", with 3 tracks taken from the CD and one exclusive piece "Inner Weave At The Outer Edge", released in limited edition of 400 copies on Kyle Wright's Diophantine Discs. By the way, this is the first vinyl release of Steve Roach since "Desert Solitaire" LP in 1989!!! Big kudos to all involved for the whole "Skeleton Keys" package!!! The journey continues and I am thrilled to be deeply connected!!!

Richard Gürtler (Jul 11, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)
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