"Reflections is an immersive curatorial platform for sound, light, and space." That basic description belies a very important mission in the 2020s: to provide sanctuary from the numerous fucking horrors of the fucking world and to figuratively turn down the temperature of an overheated planet. And so Reflections founders Brandon Shotwell and Bob Maynard continued their Nobel-worthy project by bringing Southwestern ambient-music maestro Steve Roach to Seattle First Baptist Church on March 15 in order to celebrate the 40th anniversary of his classic album, Structures from Silence. 

Reputedly a favorite of yoga instructors, medical doctors, and psychotherapists, Structures from Silence was influenced by Southern California's many deserts, where the young musician absorbed their spaciousness and quiet into his aesthetics. As Roach said in the liner notes to the 2017 reissue of Structures, "I was uncovering and discovering a palpable sense of stillness emanating from a soundcurrent of 'silence.'"

On Friday night, surrounded by four synths, Roach began his 125-minute set with barely audible baby murmurs before a swirl of synthetic strings and slowly arcing whorls of peace-inducing sounds arose. A vaporous mysteriousness gradually seeped into earshot, followed by a grand, swaying movement that you might hear in a mid-budget Hollywood suspense film. It quickly became apparent that Roach's punctilious and methodical approach diametrically opposes that of a mad sonic scientist. He plays the long game, very smoothly. 

Steve Roach performing at First Baptist on Friday, March 15. JP Martin Photography

Getting increasingly spacious, the sound—which was crisp and clear throughout; kudos to the guys working the console—then transformed into pulsating arpeggios that stirred welcome memories of Tangerine Dream's Phaedra. On the other end of the pew where I sat, a gray-bearded gentleman lay supine, with eyes wide shut. Later, he stretched his hamstrings on said pew. No shame whatsoever; we all respond to ambient music in our own way.

With an imperceptible shift, Roach turned the church into a planetarium, helped in part by animator/filmmaker Sean Hellfritsch, who supplied the visuals—typically abstract images in purple, gold, and royal blue color schemes. Eighteen minutes in, a stealthy rhythm started drilling and thrilling with measured persistence as globules glided across the massive walls behind Roach. About five minutes later, a new, deeper tone emerged, almost like a downtuned flange of shoegaze guitar sustaining over a fluffy synth oscillation. 

Soon after, more Tangerine Dream-like chase-scene urgency emerged, proving that Roach isn't averse to evoking big-screen drama. Such developments subverted my preconceived notions that this concert was going to be a fairly static chillout sprawl for horizontal drifting, in the manner of our gray-bearded friend. But no. More than once, Roach instigated moments of serious adrenaline squirting. Thirty-eight minutes in, he inaugurated a different mood altogether—marked by an almost sitar-like snarl—that was very insular and intriguing... a real highlight. In another section, the synths emulated big-cat and exotic-reptile sounds.

Steve Roach performing at First Baptist on Friday, March 15. JP Martin Photography

About halfway in, Roach pulled out a didgeridoo, its halo'd twang sounding at once ancient and futuristic, like birdsong but with frog-croak undertones. Another standout passage featured rapid percussion Ă  la Rapoon or Muslimgauze, with didgeridoo scatting over it; the effect was at once soothing and unsettling. There was one passage of slow-motion poignancy from "Structures from Silence" itself that made me contemplate all the poor decisions I've made in life. This is what some of the best live music does, although it rarely happens.

The performance's final 30 minutes had some longueurs, some innocuous arpeggios, some middling, dolorous drones. But Roach compensated for these when, gravitating for the first time to a smaller keyboard, he generated a lament that captured a swelling melancholy in rich tones, not unlike early Slowdive. There followed a piece that could've been a threnody for the human race, which would've made for a fulfilling climax to the concert, but there was more. Roach ended with a wow-inducing drone reminiscent of peak-era Spiritualized and capped it off with some microscopic bleeps. Overall, it was a cool zone on which to end.

One final note about the venue: we as a species would be much better off if we converted all houses of worship into concert halls. Music is the ultimate religion. This is a hill on which I'm willing to get bruised, if not die.

Steve Roach performing at First Baptist on Friday, March 15. JP Martin Photography