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Steve Roden

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  • Richard Chartier’s LINE imprint forms a natural counterpoint to the more streamlined releases of 12k. Each CD has a challenging feel and is often accompanied by an engaging narrative to explain the background of the work. Steve Roden has been producing installations and audio artwork for many years and he has a catalogue that impresses in its sheer depth and breadth with releases on such influential labels as Trente Oiseaux, Digital Narcis, Meme, Semishigure, Fatcat, 12k and many more. Airforms [LINE_022] is an instantly intriguing hour-long piece that was originally presented in April 2004 at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Arizona. Inspired by a group of houses designed by Wallace Neff in the 1940’s using a process he named ‘Airform Construction’. These houses were built by spraying concrete over an inflated balloon structure and were themselves imspired by the Nautilus sea shell. They provided a chance for Neff to investigate the aesthetic possibilities of structures formed by air and the knock-on psychological effects of living inside and organically formed space. Roden’s installation reflects Neff’s ideas in the use of air as an inspirational skeleton and five objects were built using a similar technique, exchanging concrete for plaster. These objects then each had a speaker placed inside and a multi-channel audio piece was formed using a manipulated sound of breath being blown through and old wooden pipe organ. As a concept it’s thoroughly well researched and incredibly effective, although obviously for this CD release the sounds were reformed to work in a stereo environment instead of a multi-channel sound system. The work is at once soothing and, as I suspect was intended, a fabulous reflection of sighing wind or breath with its ebb and flow that carries the listener with it. Constructed with multiple layers of sound, from a low sub-heavy drone right through to twinkling top end shimmers, Roden manages to give the piece a head-filling density that requires you to listen to it at a low volume to really get the most from it – high volumes may simply be overwhelming. At the correct level it becomes an amazingly deep background sound that works in such a subliminally beautiful way its hard to resist coming back to it on numerous occasions. It manages to remain, if not completely melodic, then certainly musical in an abstract way and there is a certain amount of progression throughout, although certainly not enough to distract you from the hypnotic nature of the sound. This sort of music really isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, I know, but as a CD to work to, to sleep to or even to just daydream to, it’s up there with the best of them (see Basinski’s Disintegration Loops or John Hudak’s Room With Sky for work with similar results) and proves once again that LINE is a force to be reckoned with, as is Roden himself. A genuine pleasure to listen to.
    (Smallfish, UK)

  • There might also be the risk that Steve Roden becomes the Merzbow of microsound, as this is the second release of his we have in one week. But unlike the Oder Delias Or Butterflies release, this release deals with music for an installation, based around experimental houses by architect Wallace Neff in the 1940s. His houses were built by spraying concrete over an inflated balloon structure. In his installation Roden uses five objects by laying plaster over small balloons. The sound was ‘created using the transformed sound of a breath through an old wooden pipe organ’. In the course of some fifty some minutes, Roden doesn’t tell us a story, but rather has his sounds in a free flown space. It’s made along the usual Roden principle (“sounds are grouped together in slightly different loops of varying length, which move along each-other and create a dense but pleasant pattern”) and creates an environmental piece of music for the home listener, in absence of the installation. As s uch it works well. Best is to leave this CD on repeat for a whole day, and a medium to low volume, while cleaning the house or painting a picture. It will stick in your head in a slow and peaceful manner. Very pleasant indeed.
    (Vital Weekly, NL)

  • Are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s get chatty. Steve Roden is (as you may well know) a knob-on sound and visual artist who first presented his Airforms project at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Arizona. Inspired by a group of experimental house designers in the 1940’s (led by Wallace Neff) who sprayed concrete onto inflated balloon structures, their intent was to examine the relationships and aesthetic possibilities offered by air in an attempt to create organic living spaces. Phew. So where does Roden come into this? Well, using an old wooden organ pipe and his formidable lung capacity, Roden set about recording his (for want of a better term) emissions, then digitally sculpting the results into a single hour long composition. If you’re thinking this errs on the side of self-indulgent aural masturbation, you might well be right (The Wire love him after all), but I guarantee that a couple of minutes in and you’ll have forgotten any pretentious caveats you initially placed on the record. Broadly comparable to his own exquisite Light Forms or the ever present William Basinski, Roden really does conjure up a sense of scale and efficaciousness that isn’t readily describable. At times little more than muffled soundscapes ameliorating towards a cloaked conclusion, Roden sporadically introduces new elements (static fizz, crackling digitalis) which serve to sharpen the contrast even further. Beatific from start to end, Airforms is an hour off from the real world.
    (Boomkat, UK)