Sam Rosenthal / Nick Shadow / Steve Roach

The Gesture Of History


1   blood on the snow i

2   blood on the snow ii

3   the gesture of history

4   and watch the galaxy turning

The Gesture of History draws upon introspective passages where the organic texture and emotions of the viola play out over an atmosphere of engulfing mournful beauty. Delicate strings float upon shimmering, forever changing expressionistic backgrounds of processed viola, synth, and harmonium – profoundly sensitive and deeply moving. The modernist ambient compositions balance on the precipice looking back in moments of reflection and rumination while delicately holding the future in our hands.

The artists

For 33 years, Sam Rosenthal has been the songwriter/primary band member of the gothic/ethereal/ambient act Black Tape For A Blue Girl. Spreading his wings over the last five years, Sam has released 3 instrumental electronic albums including a recent collaboration with Mark Seelig.

Steve Roach is a leading American pioneer in the evolution of ambient/electronic music, helping shape it into what it is today. Grammy-nominated in 2018 and 2019 consecutively, his career spans four decades and nearly 200 releases. Drawing from a vast, unique and deeply personal authenticity, his albums are fueled by the momentum of a lifetime dedicated to the soundcurrent.

Shadow is an enigmatic violist based in Portland, Oregon. They perform in a number of local bands, busk at Powell’s Books during the holidays, and perform on the most recent two Black Tape For A Blue Girl albums.

The story of the album

Sam recalls:
The Gesture of History began with an instrumental I created for the Black Tape For A Blue Girl Blood on the snow EP utilizing processed and sequenced viola. The track features Nick Shadow, a fantastic Portland-based violist who’s been part of the band on our two recent albums. Soon after, I processed and structured “Blood ii” in the same moody, textural vein, and Nick played some live viola over the piece. During the mixing of To touch the milky way, I escaped from the rigors of that highly-focused work by creating the longer “The Gesture of History,” a viola-harmonium-synth track with a compelling, engaging flow. This piece goes to a deep, rich place; I sensed I had the makings of a great album if I could shape the earlier pieces to fit with the new one.

I fully admit that artists are weird, in that a listener might be satisfied with the tracks as they stood. Yet I knew there was something more I wanted to hear; I could sense it, but I wasn’t sure how to get there. To find a new perspective, I sent the tracks to Steve Roach and asked if he had some ideas and if he’d add spacial enhancements (processing, reverb, etc).

I’ve worked with Steve since 1995, releasing over 75 of his electronic/ambient albums on my Projekt Records label. We talk on the phone almost daily about art, experience, his music, my music, and so much more. Steve provided spacial enhancements on the As Lonely As Dave Bowman Pod and Monolith albums, and I played the piano on “In the Eye of Noche” off his 2005 New Life Dreaming. Steve is always creating, and I admire his ability and determination to live in the now of the creative flow.

Steve called the day after receiving the files and said he was instantly compelled to weave in some synth elements to “Blood i + ii,” I took the multi-tracks of Steve’s enhancements and synths and set about restructuring and extending the pieces; his additions provided inspiration to flesh them out, to fulfill the album I had envisioned.