Steve Roach's Immersion: One is the first of a series of albums that are specially designed for the living space. On his website, Roach calls them "steady state zones created specifically as tone meditations." While he avoids the use of the term "ambient," in one sense, this is as pure as ambient music -- as theorized by Brian Eno in the 1970s -- can be. Designed to be played at low volume, the 74-minute duration of this piece contains literally no dynamics; it is strategized to participate in a steady state -- reading, sleeping, moving about doing chores -- where music is background atmosphere. Beginning on a single amorphous drone, the piece gently draws the listener down into its sound world, where what isn't here is pointed out by what is. And what is missing is the space for the listener to inhabit during these steady states. Slowly evolving electronic keyboard sounds, repetitive in nature, hover just above the drone. They invite you but without insisting. They provide a kind of cover for the listener as the drone itself, so unidentifiable in nature, would be -- perhaps too much without them. Listened to on headphones, "Immersion : One" is an entire universe of purposeful texture that feels like the electronic equivalent of a work by Morton Feldman: there is motion, there is duration, there is presence, and in-between spaces there is silence asserting itself, though it never quite comes to the fore. Also like Feldman's music, there is no tension. This music begins in the space where tension has already been resolved, has dissipated and disappeared, making gentle, non-invasive quiet possible. And in quiet is mystery, and this work is nothing if not mysterious. It has no origin but somewhere in the heart of silence and it really has no end until it finds silence once more. Roach has always been an investigator, a kind of Bruce Chatwin, a traveler of sonic worlds instead of physically present ones. Here he reveals a new one, unnamed except for its ability to make us one with it.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek