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Robert Rich: Ambient Music for DVD, Installations, Collaboration, and Download

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ROBERT RICH: Atlas Dei (DVD on Soundscape Productions)

This DVD from 2007 features a 92 minute film by Daniel Colvin with music by Robert Rich. Much of the soundtrack is remixed selections from older Rich releases (Electric Ladder, Gaudi, Below Zero, Echo of Small Things, Troubled Resting Place, and Sunyata); the new material comprises about 21 minutes, blended in with the older pieces.

Textural electronics waft with nebulous definition, establishing luxurious backdrops of gently roiling clouds. Additional electronics provide depth to the soundscapes. Synthetic tones growl with elongated flourish. There are instances in which keyboard cycles lend pleasant structure, embellishing the harmonics with more tangible melodies.

Haunting flutes infect the tuneage with eerie character, generating ethereal passages of drifting vapors that seethe with portentous emotion. The results are neither melancholic nor pastoral, instead evoking astral resonance of enlightened disposition.

Lap steel guitar introduces an arid moan to the music. These sustained notes are subjected to elongation until the sounds achieve a glistening quality of celestial proportion.

While Richís music stands as a prime example of ambient soundscapes, his style infuses a subtle strength to the compositions that often elevates the pieces with substance and soft vigor. This release displays this nobility with superb scope.

The movie is a flowing journey through abstract landscapes that fuse reality with mysticism, photography with paintings. The images are a constantly evolving panorama, fading with soothing fluidity through the striking imagery. Also included are bios on the artists and a sampling of Colvinís raw artwork.

Thereís also a CD version of the release, featuring 66 minutes of the music. The CD includes most of the material done specially for the DVD.

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ROBERT RICH: Michael Somoroff's Illumination (CD on Soundscape Productions)

This release from 2007 offers 71 minutes of extreme ambience.

As one would expect, music composed to accompany an art installation is designed to function as a background soundtrack. Shorn of the installation, the music becomes an ambient soundscape.

Electronic textures swirl into temperate prominence, coalescing with gradual accretion into a form of sparse density. Pulsations expand at a languid pace, seemingly taking forever to consummate an oscillation. An almost subliminal grind exists, elongated until the growl becomes a luxurious flux of ethereal mien. Immaterial breezes convey a mellow puissance that destroys any illusion of distance. Here and there merge, bestowing an omniscience on basic perceptions.

Gentle belltones, indistinct heavenly choirs, and rarefied tonalities enhance the minimal flow.

The mood is what actually thickens, while the resonance remains a tenuous filigree. Changes in the musicís harmonic attitude are subtle, triggering a disassociation with the environment, turning the listenerís attention inwards with soothing guidance.

Possessing such scanty presence, this music isnít exactly the type of thing to play at a party. Its value is distinctly aligned with solitary pursuits: contemplation, introspection, relaxation. For those uses, this music is exemplary. Its vaporous nature is perfect for these applications.

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MARCUS REUTER & ROBERT RICH: Eleven Questions (CD on Unsung Records)

This release from 2007 offers 53 minutes of gentle electronic music.

Reuter plays touch and acoustic guitars and piano; Rich plays sound design, piano, flutes, and lap steel guitar. They are joined by SiRenee, who contributes voices.

While generally pacific music, these tunes posses a subtle vitality. Guitar strains blend with airy flutes, while piano provides auxiliary resonance.

The three types of guitars utilized here define distinctly unique sounds. Acoustic guitar is the most conventional, and also the most hidden; its tender strains lurk deep in the ambient mix. Touch guitar is employed to generate a host of eerie tones that tremble with unearthly qualities. The lap steel guitar produces an equally haunting sound, but the notes are more strident, often establishing piercing sustains that warble with astral demeanor.

The pianos inject a pleasant classical seasoning to the songs, describing languid chords of endearing substance.

The flutes generate clouds of delicate garnish that waft with pastoral flair. A sense of moody contemplation is evoked by their sinuous presence.

These compositions embody a deep introspection, with the gentle melodies seeking answers for the eleven questions (of which there are actually thirteen). For the most part, the tracks are short, compressing the spans of consideration and honing their sonic deliberation. Despite their fragile structure and sparse deportment, the songsí melodic character is quite pronounced...and cerebrally stimulating.

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Robert Richís Somnium is a classic of the ambient genre, featuring seven hours of the pacific soundscapes. Due to its extreme length, the music was presented on a DVD. This milestone is now available as a pay download from Musiczeit. Full resolution FLAC (lossless compressed) files of Somnium have been divided into thirds like the DVD, along with 256 bit MP3 files.

Hereís my review of the release from 2002:

Dreams have soundtracks like this: languid and liquid, slow-evolving atmospherics of velvet textures and sighing electronic breezes. Acoustic and electronic elements blend with ghostly flutes and slowly tortured guitars to achieve a cosmic fugue that relaxes as much as it invigorates the listener. Mysterious melodies are elongated until their vaporous rhythms become excruciatingly subtle, producing a seething-yet-somber tension. This music is capable of transforming any environment into an isolation tank. Rich's reputation as an ambient pioneer is proven once again with this DVD release of seven hours of ethereal soundscapes, approximating exposure to one of his now-legendary all-night Sleep Concerts.

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