Gaining a descriptive foothold when reviewing ambient music is like collecting quicksilver into discernable word-shapes an elusive moment frozen in time. When I sample over 142 minutes of Robert Rich’s Trances / Drones release and so set it to paper, then to disks, then to cyberspace art loses its energy, I am wordless, stunned, drained.
This 2-CD offering is 1982-83 Richscapes remastered in 1993 for re-release in 2000. Old wines hold a special treasure to be discovered many years later. And so it is with Rich’s vintage works. This is an unadorned, simple yet rich ambience. It is full of unseen power and subtle in its manner of delivery. It overwhelms without smothering. It soothes without the overdone and boring, standard-industry-ambient-isms, (such “amb-boring-isms” will be discussed in a future article soon). Anyway, I find this release a wonderful break from “the norm”.
Rich was finishing his psychology studies at Stanford when these pieces first became reality. Rich was well aware of brain functions, sleep cycles, and also big into the lucid dream research thing then. (I too have unsuccessfully tried holding my hand up in front of my face and/or speaking my name aloud in dreams to establish a higher consciousness in dreamsleep.) These six tracks are created then, with purpose, focused on the brain and a manipulation/massaging of “rest-plateaus”. Rich actually held “sleep-gigs’ where people arrived with sleeping bags ready for the 10pm -7am concert. Such musicks of that Rich era are now available for mass consumption.
Sonic lulls, uniform restfulness, deep-level ambient psyche-shifts are now ready for the comfort of your living room instead of the 80's sleeping bag scene. Rich’s pieces are neither bright nor airy. They are descending clouds of Hypnos, heavy gauze, almost dark yet more ethereal than noir-tension threatening. This beatless, non-melodic, huge waved, walls-of-sound entity topples, melts, and immerses the psyche beneath the everyday din. You are carried into subterrene voids, weightlessly drifting above enigma, and that separation of mind/body/3-D space/time flow awareness quickly loses former definition. You will only understand me after you hear Rich. This is music before Rich got rhythmic, dripping, echoed, dark and well-known in noir-amb and ethnic/tribal percussives. This is Rich on his first thresholds of ambient middle-earth. This stuff is the stuff resonating a purity of form and accomplishing the brain’s wavestates Rich was so fascinated with decades ago.
For those of you needing references: think David Parsons’ Himalaya stripped down, slowed to 16 rpm or Klaus Schulze’s X in a holding pattern around his most non-sequenced “space-out’ fugues. This a very minimal, very approachable ambience that will absolutely mesmerize you. Highest of recommendations. Good night listener, see you in dreamland . . .