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Robert Rich: Live Archives

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In 2009, ambient pioneer Robert Rich took seven of his favorite concerts spanning the last twenty years and made them available as lossless FLAC digital download releases.

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ROBERT RICH: Live Archive. Volume 1: Ici et Maintenant: Paris, May 12, 1989 (DDL on Soundscape Productions)

This release from 2009 comes in two parts. Set 1 is 79 minutes long; Set 2 is 80 minutes long. This concert comes from Rich's Geometry and Rainforest period.

For this concert, Rich played: Ensoniq EPS, Yamaha DX711, loops and effects, flutes, and ambience recordings.

Set 1 begins with a lush piano passage laced with nimble faux horns. As the performance progresses, the keyboards continue to express cerebral improvised melodies tempered by assorted embellishments. Gently meandering base tones creep into play, followed by winsome flute and a return of the brass. Softly pittering electronic rhythms periodically lurk within the mix.

While retaining a soothing disposition, these keyboard melodies are reasonably agile and quite engaging. The auxiliary components serve to flesh things out with depth and often assume the vantage of the main instrument.

By the fourth track, the keyboards take a rest and allow all these complementary aspects to offer steady contributions to the music. Pastoral flute establishes a delicate occupancy with bass tones underneath, giving way to ethereal tempos and a reprise of the arid horns. The music begins to trade its ambient certification for the posture of mild jazz.

Next, the music enters a minimal phase with haunting textures seasoned by ghostly flute. A gamelan temperament gradually becomes pronounced as ethnic percussion rises to remote dominance. A return to sparse ambience is given arboreal characteristics with environmental sounds coexisting with tenuous electronic pitches and quasi-tribal rhythms.

Nearing the end of Set 1, the piano returns with extremely fragile melodics, giving way to a section of celestial textures. For the finale, rarefied tempos slip into the mix and carry the music to a stately conclusion punctuated by amiable flute strains.

While Set 2 is generally more ambient, it begins with a rhythmic presence and electric keyboards exhibiting a brassy timbre, followed by a passage of shimmering pulsations that serve as a backdrop for more melodic keyboard delineations of a bewitching nature.

Then things take a sedate turn as flutes establish a moody presence with pensive piano emerging to generate an introspective interlude. A stretch of languid textures follow, evoking a peaceful twilight in which gamelan tempos eventually approximate a majestic starscape. This atmospheric demeanor continues for a while, employing soft tones to create a harmonic venue that slowly enters more melodic definition with the return of understated piano, before the music resumes a minimal posture with ephemeral traceries.

Retaining this vaporous quality, the performance ends with velvety sounds rising gradually from a seemingly undisturbed pool of somber tonalities.

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ROBERT RICH: Live Archive Volume 2: Due Acque: Umbria, Italy, April 1, 2000 (DDL on Soundscape Productions)

This release from 2009 features 71 minutes of ambient electronics performed at a private concert in Italy.

For this performance, Rich played: Ensoniq ASR10, lap steel guitar, flutes, loops and effects, and ambience recordings.

This music is extremely ambient in character. Delicate tones form an expansive milieu that is then embellished by additional sounds of a very gaseous nature. Languid steel guitar notes are subjected to infinite sustains, creating eerie passages of luscious fragility. There are points where the flow adopts a subtle density, but even then the temperament remains smooth and dreamy.

Mellow electronics enter the mix, blending things into a steady stream of fastidious harmonics. These pacific tones generate an illusion of inactivity, while in actuality the flow is undergoing a series of barely discernible evolutions.

In track five, a hissy presence of rainfall enters the mix, and hints of faraway things establish a horizon that never really comes into view.

Eventually the shower passes, and a somber attitude prevails. Ethereal flute commences to season the atmospheric flow with its melancholic expressions, each note elongated and maintained to achieve a spectral flavor.

The gossamer flute carries the performance to an elegant conclusion.

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ROBERT RICH: Live Archive Volume 3: Shamballa: Costa Mesa, California, May 20, 2000 (DDL on Soundscape Productions)

This release from 2009 features 65 minutes of electronic music.

Forv this gig, Rich played: Korg WS, Ensoniq ASR10, Yamaha SX711, lap steel guitar, flutes, and loops and effects.

Track 1 ("Guitar Harmonics") features Rich on guitar, a conventional performance that relies more on actual chords than notes bent into elongated sustains. The tune is searing albeit not overt.

Track 2 ("Nada") combines airy texturals with moody flute, producing a testament to minimalism with periodic instances of definition as the flute lifts its voice into delicate prominence.

Track 3 ("Cloud Relapse") utilizes slide guitar sustains to achieve stratospheric altitude, each expansive resonance wafting with vaporous delineation.

Track 4 ("Lapis") unleashes languid percussion in conjunction with pensive flute and explicit bass tones, producing a congenially contemplative tune with buoyant traits.

Track 5 ("Submission to Pele") allows subdued steel drum rhythms to mingle with hesitant electronics, resulting in a tribal demeanor rich with reverence.

Track 6 ("Synergistic Perceptions") goes minimal, assembling bloops and liquid beats with an ambient undercurrent. Slide sustains ebb and wane like a celestial breathing pattern, punctuated by infrequent weirdness that ultimately gathers to swamp the piece.

Track 7 ("Demilitarized Zone") adopts a plodding pace, intersplicing hoofbeats with warbling slide sustains (that sometimes jiggle into more piercing guitar notes). A whiny cacophony strives for dominance toward the end of the piece.

Track 8 ("Nightshade") offers a nocturnal milieu with mournful flute and soothing tempos manifesting a soulful finale.

An engaging performance balanced between melodic ambience and mildly dynamic compositions.

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ROBERT RICH: Live Archive Volume 4: Alien Zoology: San Francisco, California, December 9, 2001 (DDL on Soundscape Productions)

This release from 2009 comes in two parts. Set 1 is 47 minutes long; Set 2 is 42 minutes long.

A wide-ranging planetarium concert that opens with modular analog sequences and moves into pieces from Outpost, Bestiary and '90s Fathom-era material.

For this performance, Rich played: MOTM modular, Korg Wavestation, Yamaha DX711, Ensoniq ASR10, lap steel guitar, flutes, and loops and effects.

Set 1 begins with "Morrison Cycles," a non-album improv in which MOTM tones bloop away and are balanced by steel guitar sustainsÉwhich eventually recede and are replaced by a languid expanse of dreamy textures featuring an understated steel guitar presence.

Next there is "Ice Fields," consisting of mournful drones seasoned by haunting tones and punctuated by chugging mechanical beats, all of which superbly evokes an assortment of lights glittering across a frigid plain.

Then comes "Mantis Intentions," in which insectoid sonics are explored with Rich's fondly designed bloops and chittering diodes. Ethereal tones waft in the background until guitar sustains emerge to goad the bugs into scuttling agitation, which prompts them to respond with harsh electronic complaints.

This leads into "Nesting on Cliffsides," where things get wistful as the music reaches higher altitudes with sighing guitar sustains and more sedate blooping sounds. Things escalate and achieve some intensity with hissy textures and heavenly chords descending in a spiral to overwhelm the mixÉbefore the ascent exits the atmosphere to luxuriate with sparse tonalities.

Set 1 concludes with "Bestiary," in which an opening of plodding pulsations evolves rhythmic patterns that are soon accompanied by quirky sounds of an unearthly nature.

Set 2 starts with "Animus," an eerie piece replete with airy flute tones leading to an emergence of tribal percussion and the agile application of bent bass notes. The tune progresses into a more somber period wherein the flutes dominate and the other elements are relegated to a remote vantageÉbefore an ending of minimal definition.

Which leads into "Black Skies," where deeper tones lend density to the minimalism as ringing harmonics sway into play, punctuated by bells and whispering effects.

Then there is "Belltone Glass," which suitably matches its name with delicate belltones and softly wafting electronic breezes.

Next comes "Nada," a serene composition utilizing winsome flute and rarefied tones.

Followed by "Nada (gliss)," which continues the tranquil motif with gentle steel guitar glissandos flickering amid a pastiche of soothingly churning tonalities.

Which slides into "Lapis" for the conclusion of Set 2. Here, pacific fluting leads to a soft percussive stretch punctuated by cello-like sighs. As the piece progresses, the rhythmics grow more intricate, but the melancholic softness reigns supreme by the finale.

Rich's liner notes hint that this concert has been available through questionable means on the internet for a while, but this version offers superior sound quality.

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ROBERT RICH: Live Archive Volume 5: Cowell Theater, San Francisco, California, May 12, 2002 (DDL on Soundscape Productions)

This release from 2009 comes in two parts. Set 1 is 50 minutes long; Set 2 is 54 minutes long.

One of the more melodic concerts in the series, opening with piano and guitar improvisations, then moving into tracks from Bestiary and other rhythmic pieces from the last decade.

For this concert, Rich played: MOTM modular, Korg Wavestation, Yamaha DX711, Ensoniq ASR10, lap steel guitar, flutes, and loops and effects.

Set 1 begins with a long solo piano piece, displaying mounting puissance as Rich proceeds from sedate pittering to classical majesty. A dose of gentle guitar ambience follows consisting of airy sustains progressing into twangy chords and developing into more severe electronic string stylings, all accompanied by bass thumps and softly chittering electronic embellishments. Next are glurpy renditions of "Mantis Intentions," "Nesting on Cliffsides," and "Bestiary," followed by "Edge of Nowhere," which shifts the gig's temperament for a bit with a sedate piece characterized by seesawing tones and languidly plodding electronic beats that gradually muster substance and velocity with guitar sustains as the beats escalate into swifter temposÉbefore a somber tonal conclusion.

Set 2 features "Anumis," "Black Skies," "Nada," "Nada (gliss)," and "Lapis" (again following the set list of Alien Zoology). Then comes "Nightshade," in which minimal atmospherics are seasoned by feathery flute and distant percussives. The Set concludes with "Mosaic," another sparse piece using softly pittering keyboards to support sighing guitar sustains; eventually the keys adopt more agility as they pursue a xylophonic stretch leading to a coda of heavenly tones and lilting basstones; and things achieve a masterful authority (albeit an ambient one) for the finale.

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ROBERT RICH: Live Archive Volume 6: Lumin: San Francisco Camerawork, California, March 6, 2008 (DDL on Soundscape Productions)

This release from 2009 features 64 minutes of ambient electronic music.

A shimmering improvisal environment, where harmonics blur into waves of pure abstraction, performed live with multiple projections of films by Paul Clipson. This music is not from any of Rich's albums.

For this concert, Rich played: MOTM modular, Korg Wavestation, Korg M3, Ensoniq ASR10, lap steel guitar, flutes, and loops and effects.

Gently gurgling waters churn and a mass of tones emerge, tempered by sedately chiming belltones. Behind it all lies a tranquil texture, expansive and unintrusive. Eventually steel guitar sustains enter the mix, starting as soothing waves and accruing body with volume and muster. Additional electronics gather from the periphery and join in, effectively contributing softer tones to the flow. But that softness attains a darker nature as some ghostly sounds slide into play, lending the auralscape a celestial temperament, almost spooky as the electronics enter a tenuous phase with twinkling noises offering hints of radiant presence at the edges. The flow gets more somber, though, as the overall attitude seems to leave the earth and enter interplanetary space. There, pulsations approach a more mechanical mien, as if some large metallic form has loomed close enough to eclipse the soundscape's ethereal demeanor. This sonic mass begins to express shushing waves, grittily breathing yet somehow soothing. A touch of harmonics enters this hissing pastiche, slowly creeping in and infecting the flow with delicate wisps of mellifluous influence. Eventually the harsher elements fade, leaving the amiable tones to prevail. More noble tones surface, establishing a regal attitude with elongated oscillations of calming definition. Hints of flute are heard, deeply immersed in the drones. Tenuous pulsations ooze forth, bringing with them faintly perceived vistas rich with mystery. The pitch rises while the definition remains abstract, achieving a state of gentle watery sounds reenter the mix, ushering things to a tranquil conclusion.

A particularly fragile piece of music, intended to inspire relaxing contemplation.

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ROBERT RICH: Live Archive Volume 7: Mycosphere: KFJC, May 31, 2008 (DDL on Soundscape Productions)

This release from 2009 feature 80 minutes of ambient electronic music.

A radio performance for Day of Drone, where Robert explores the slow depths with abstract organic soundscapes and glurp. This music is not found on any of Rich's albums.

For this performance, Rich confined his instrumentation to Korg M3 and Ableton Live with M-Audio Ozonic controller.

Ethereal tonalities rally strength and achieve a vaporous substantiality. Sharply defined droplet sounds provide an unrhythmic punctuation for the meandering ambience. Auxiliary electronics churn just beneath that foggy layer, periodically peeking through as chiming tones. Gradually, those incursions become more frequent and last longer, achieving definition in tandem with the rarefied background. These tones ascend and wane, their durations varying as the piece progresses, generating different oscillation patterns against the atmospheric backdrop. With each rise, a sense of intensity is foreshadowed, only to be lost as the pulsation dwindles. The droplets persist in furnishing an organic presence amid the synthetic milieu. An accretion of vitality is approximated with a volume increase, establishing a denser fog of tonalities...which eventually fades as the wave reaches its downward curve...only to revive on the upswing. With each ascension the auralscape becomes somewhat harsher, tempered by faint electronics that tremble with animation. The airy formalization achieves a sort of glutinous character as things adopt a hollow resonance, growing grittier with each swelling, almost acquiring a mechanical guise as of immense rotary gears spinning in the far distance. That illusionary spinning adopts an astral disposition, hinting at a chant that has been slowed down to lose all vocal quality and resound as an expansive texture. With each retrogression, a quality of drama is generated, ponderous despite its sparse certification. The harmonic flow is suddenly punctuated by synthetic chirping, creating an erratic presence of life amid the oscillating void. But the electronics reclaim dominance, conquering everything with atonal puissance and swamping the flow with a piercing occupancy...that eventually diminishes for the finale.

A grand example of powerful ambience, full of lush abstractions and designed to enhance dreamstates with vivid augmentation.

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