I can sit for hours dreaming up worlds and places the music of Steve Roach could come from, and exist in. The sounds he creates seem to inspire an entirely new type of thought, at best creating a timeless bliss in which there is no urgency or worry to be found. The man is a genius, but at least from my point of view, some of his work is clearly better than the rest. As someone who at this point has 10 - 15 different Steve Roach albums, I can confidently say this set, "Immersion: Three" contains one of his best pieces ever.
I'm kind of a unique case, having had little familiarity with actual ambient musicians until fairly recently (yet enjoying the ambient sections/aspects of other music I already owned). I was intrigued by the idea of 'sound zones' intended to change the living space. I felt that was exactly what I needed at the time. As a result, "Immersion: Three" was my introduction to Steve Roach and most of ambient music as a whole.
I was immediately amazed by the sun-bleached, dazzlingly golden zen that is "First Light". It remains the highlight to this day. It represents, to me, safety in the knowledge that every event in life, every concern or mistake, is part of a time-line so long and unfathomable that any perceived disruption of it is purely imaginary. People, as individuals, have such a hard time seeing beyond the incredible biases of their narrow, limiting environments and sets of experiences that such a musical reminder is infinitely helpful. The universe moves together in progression. Nothing is abrupt. Everything is moving. And I could go on for hours like this... This piece seems to pulsate, breathe and build, changing in subtle but noticeable ways. It doesn't even reveal its true character, chord progression and pattern until 10 minutes in, but at least to me it is anything but boring. It contains heavy doses of Roach's trademark gauzy yet liquid, flowing textures.
The second disk, "Sleep Chamber", is much more static. It is a dull, misty feeling of near-unconsciousness, in which one is vaguely aware of the unpleasant utter blackness of their surroundings. Listening to it, one can imagine being suspended about a mile underwater in the deep sea, where all is dark, but the bottom is yet far away. This piece is certainly powerful for what it is, but in its muddiness only has full effect when played on a good soundsystem. Active listening to this piece is also much less rewarding than with "First Light", due to its aforementioned unchanging nature. Also, I'm not one to criticize one of Roach's pieces simply on the basis that it is dark, but anyone opposed to darkness in ambient music would best steer clear of this disk entirely. "Sleep Chamber" is the weakness and the low point of "Immersion: Three" which brings my rating down to 4 stars, but it's still clearly a solid Roach composition.
The third piece, "Still", is easily the strangest and hardest to describe. It is built from higher, clearer, almost organ-like tones ala "Palace of Nectar" from his absolute masterpiece "Mystic Chords & Sacred Spaces". This piece could be just as easily disturbing as empowering, leading in the end to an extremely powerful feeling of disorientation. Visually, it makes me think of the stream of blue light/energy on the cover as a massive current, carrying me along, occasionally threatening to bury me in its inanimate, unsympathetic waves. "Still" changes very little, but it doesn't seem to hurt the piece's effect as much as with "Sleep Chamber". In its own way, this piece nearly equals the unbelievable power of "First Light", and functions as its tainted, diseased and haunting sister piece.
I love the artwork on this set as well. Roach's album art can be hit and miss, and this is one of the clear hits. The cloudy energy stream on the cover continues into the inside of the digipack, passing through all three CDs, as if listening to them in order is a journey along this continuous flow. The colors and shades morph with subtlety just as the music does. Beautiful packaging.
In conclusion, "Immersion: Three" contains 2 resounding successes and one pretty average Roach composition. If you're already a fan of the man's longer work, or if you're just curious like I was, and have some patience, this is highly recommended. I look forward to hearing the other two in the "Immersion" series, which I still haven't gotten my hands on.