Spacemusic Reviews

Tag: Robert Rich

Robert Rich/Luca Formentini: For Sundays When It Rains

For Sundays When It Rains

Robert Rich/Luca Formentini: For Sundays When It Rains
Released: 30 September 2022

On For Sundays When It Rains (57:10) Robert Rich & Luca Formentini collaborate to elevate all those who will listen. Within these twelve chilled spaces imaginations grow. Our inner realm feels flooded with warmth and light, while the world around us turns steadily towards tomorrow. Their placid moods breathe dark then light. Speaking in clean chords and lilting melodies, the listener feels an honesty that few musicians are capable of calling forth. This album does not push against limits, but rather roams around easily inside of us – between the mind and the heart. In the interweaving of atmosphere, texture and mood notes of cloudy flute settle above reverberant grand piano. The subtle sweeps of contrast keep you attentive and charmed, yet For Sundays When It Rains is consistently inventive while it wanders through an enlightened field of form and invention. As delicate acoustic guitar rambles amid soft sighs of airy lightness, timeless tones of untold space consume idyllic scenes. Overseen by two rouge spirits, this release reveals a truth about Rich & Formentini. We must admire this duo’s ability to empty our thoughts of everything other than the music itself – as what appears to be just a few spare keys and chords conjures a remarkably detailed interior realm. In a high sonic style they access mysterious influences to form a singular stillness outside the neutrality of basic Ambient Music. Taking the listeners as well as the players into its confidence, this music seems formed over a night of balmy dreams and friendly visitations – as it waits patiently For Sundays When It Rains.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END29 September 2022


Robert Rich: Offering to the Morning Fog

Offering to the Morning Fog

Offering to the Morning Fog

Robert Rich: Offering to the Morning Fog
Released: 24 May 2020

Propelled by a striking new inspiration Robert Rich heads for the dreamlands. Sailing in the direction of dawn he realizes an Offering to the Morning Fog (67’52”). Content are those who tour this realm. A lavish aural voyage this album unfolds at a right roaming pace. Progressing along a slow-moving arc it builds a sense of tonal otherness that is enticing, inviting and subtle. As this release has been composed within an alternate system of tuning, one might expect the effect to be disquieting. To his credit, here Rich uses this unique technique to conjure six works of wonder – sometimes curious and questioning, but always meant to ease, not challenge his advanced listeners. Offering to the Morning Fog invites us to dream. With breathing drones and undulating tones the ebb and flow of Rich’s slow flute lines circulate through cavernous reverb. The measured use of glissando guitar adds a sinuous shimmering shine wherever it arises. But beneath this lightening plain electronic sound sources materialize in a lingering portent. It is these brief heartless voids and unsettled regions that so fix and fascinate Rich. Declaring a twilight sound space he summons a daybreak where infinity is nothingness and the unknown impels his craft. Offering to the Morning Fog is the perfect balm for an age that demands art and music penetrate surfaces and depict a more complex truth. So although your heart and mind will be unfolding in a thousand different directions, please do not forget to look for yourself inside this beautiful landscape. And please know that, as the long night passes with the cleansing sunrise always comes the promise of a new and better day – at which time there is no better moment to concede that it is the contrast of light and dark that give each other their meaning.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END25 June 2020

Various Artists: Cosines and Tangents

Cosines and Tangents

Cosines and Tangents

Various Artists: Cosines and Tangents
Released: 18 October 2019

For those contributing tracks to Cosines and Tangents, music is a more precise way to communicate. This volume, the third in the Tone Science series, presents nine works – every one made using a unique modular synthesizer system. Each component within these cases and cabinets is a discrete part chosen and arranged according to the taste and direction of the individual artist. Filters, oscillators, mixers, ring modulators, envelopes, and other even more esoteric pieces provide an unprecedented flexibility in sound design and music making. They are systems that are not fixed in the way conventional instruments are, and attract an interesting mix of musicians and engineers. Represented on Cosines and Tangents are a compelling cross-section of talented people from out of this body. From the raw power of Berserker by Redshift, to the intellectual vigor of Cyclosporum by Robert Rich, then down to the unpeople space of En-Edge by Radek Rudnicki, on up to the gentle mental popping pulse of Round #2 by Benge, this collection, in turns, offers the feeling of coming home, followed by the sense of leaving Earth. Overtly synthetic, these realizations all confer a particular electrical power – in hopes of awakening possibility in listeners. As there is no one perfect way to perform this music, we are well served by the select imaginations uplifting this group. Threading between the forces of chaos and order Cosines and Tangents produces a fascinating energy – a trait which has yet to be fully explained. However, what may be explained is why the field of Electronic Music has over these many years remained so innovative, so ahead of its time. This is plainly so because its practitioners have not forgotten the first principle of their work… the expressive manipulation of timbre – and remained true to a faith… that just as the soul animates a person, so timbre animates a sound.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END10 October 2019

Robert Rich: Tactile Ground

Tactile Ground

Tactile Ground

Robert Rich: Tactile Ground
Released: 15 January 2019

Robert Rich remains as content as ever reveling in his remarkable and imaginative designs. After initiating the audience into the bewildering mysteries of his art, he awakens particular responses. Again treating sound as a material to express ideas and feelings, his Tactile Ground is the realization of that which eludes language. A sonic landscape contoured by wonder, we may imagine the musician as an organism. With its recordings of the natural world, surrounded by strange modulations and washes of harmony, we arrive at a most unexpected setting. In some green Eden, or a primordial realm, it feels like these motifs have preceded the human race. With no discernible rhythm, it becomes difficult to maintain our bearings while within Tactile Ground. Sensations vary over 15 tracks and two discs. Where a slight but noticeable restlessness begins, further in the shivering quality of its atmosphere becomes unapologetically bleak. As granular textures are replaced by the smooth, stillness of sustaining drones, brighter passages support the spare, elegant notes of a grand piano. Beautiful tones do emanate from Rich’s steel guitar, slithering and sliding in slow serpentine glissando. Breaths of bamboo flute float through a glorious reverberation above a torrent of churning, murmuring synthesizers – and in this manner Tactile Ground creeps slowly along. Having found that his musical expressions affect other people, Robert Rich does them consciously and intentionally to produce that effect – and so his music is born. As we evolve into creatures with powers which at present we do not possess, we may come to understand fully how sound created thought, and how thought creates music. Until that time, the human mind requires a basic coherence and system, and once given systematic coherence can grasp ideas of ever increasing complexity. Yet, even given this, it will not be possible for us to know the meaning of Tactile Ground until traveling its complete course.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END7 February 2019

Robert Rich & Markus Reuter: Flood Expeditions: The Gatherings 19 May 2018

Flood Expeditions: The Gatherings 19 May 2018

Flood Expeditions: The Gatherings 19 May 2018

Robert Rich & Markus Reuter: Flood Expeditions: The Gatherings 19 May 2018
Released: 4 July 2018

People pray in a church. On 19 May 2018 Robert Rich & Markus Reuter played in a church, and did something that was truly new. Their program for The Gatherings Concert Series merged the aesthetics of Classical Music with the profanity of improvisation; as this duo did not just acknowledge the mystery of existence, they celebrated it. Their album Flood Expeditions: The Gatherings 19 May 2018 presents the full concert – where Rich performed at the grand piano and Reuter with his Touch Guitar and digital processing before a rapt Philadelphia audience. Some audiences sing along, or clap, while others may drink, dance, sway or bob. Symphony attendees read the conductor’s notes. At The Gatherings we listen, which provided Rich & Reuter with an opening to delve deeper into a new set of explorations – of a magic they had first encountered in the making of their 2017 studio album Lift a Feather to the Flood. These guys know all the notes, chords, scales, majors and minors. Yet the works found on Flood Expeditions are about the subtle power of sound – not for decorating the live space, but for a glimpse into something spiritual. With its ever-fading atmospheric tones and digital haze their realizations may seem a formless vacuum, yet everything is balanced by optimism. Rich’s piano notes resound through reverberation, surrounded by surreal fluttering environmental textures. Whether playing the keys seated, or reaching into the piano to pluck, scrape and strum its inner workings, he seems to produce emanations from a lifetime of receiving and expressing wonder. Reuter waits deep in the soundscape to find many electric moments. His guitar first breathes lowly, then asserts a color of succinct distortion in heated lead lines, expanding soon into ethereal consonance. Using a uniquely routed echo, he even manages to wedge in a conversation with himself. Rather than root the audience to where they sit, together Rich & Reuter transport us to an immaterial realm – where an internal guidance awakens. This music represents something outside of ourselves, upon which we project our thoughts and contemplations. There are no instructions for listening to Flood Expeditions, there is only the sensation of hearing. As we endeavored to hear their message in the darkened sanctuary this performance reminded us of the nature of possibility – of what we can become. But Robert Rich & Markus Reuter cannot play us into the answers, we must live into them ourselves.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END12 July 2018

Robert Rich: The Biode

The Biode

The Biode

Robert Rich: The Biode
Released: 25 February 2018

What will we be thinking about while we listen to The Biode (57’37”) by Robert Rich? Is existence a property? Or a state? How do we measure the modern world? What constitutes the self? A talent on a free course, Rich progresses, not in a straight line, but in alternate divergences from one side of creativity to the other. His work on The Biode re-awakens the discussion of music and the surreal. To the ear accustomed to soothing atmospheres, this album is a risk – as it deviates quite seriously from better known traditions. A great deal of its charm lies in its ability to confound and perplex. An exploration of new aims and tendencies, the ten tracks found on The Biode are each an exploitation of carefully chosen and contrasted tonal qualities. Rich’s harmonic lubrications are subtle, revealing the dim light of mystic musing. Instrumental tone colors are combined, yet each stands clear of the other – asserting a mutual independence. As a gathering of rhythmic threads arise and resolve in unconventional sequencer patterns and percussive structures, tiny snatches of melody pass like vain dreams – heedlessly into some other chord. From sweet, to pungent, to the primordial, a slow progression of pale hues test permitted concords and discords. Throughout this release Rich features his notable research into the qualities of timbre, into the effects of new combinations of tones. These imaginative modulations are highlighted as prominently as the more familiar reverberant flute solos, steel guitar leads and synthesized pads. The result is a wonderful zone of beautiful melodies and sonic grandeur, accented by glurping electronic utterances and an unsettling intonation. However scientific its conception may have been, The Biode proves very expressive. As faithful in detail as any of Rich’s best work, it represents the furthest progress yet in acknowledging the human subconscious, and the emotional and intellectual attitudes of the mind.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END22 March 2018

Robert Rich: Live at The Gatherings 2015

Live at The Gatherings 2015

Live at The Gatherings 2015

Robert Rich: Live at The Gatherings 2015
Released: 2 June 2017

Robert Rich is about more than just exhibiting himself on the stage. His many concert appearances are understood as substantial, yet ephemeral experiences in sound. Among the most notable are Rich’s numerous appearances in Philadelphia as part of The Gatherings Concert Series. This is a safe place for innovative musicians to explore creativity, and discover what lies inside – the listener and player alike. We now have a permanent treasure to add to the memory of one such concert. The double CD Live at The Gatherings 2015 presents Robert Rich’s 11 April 2015 performance, an album that will touch your mind, and may even invade your dreams. While Rich focuses on the brainy, metaphysical aspects of his live work, he is always solidly attentive to the more practical issues. Through contour, pacing and tone, he makes buying admission to one of his live events a ticket to a foreign land. In coolly assured advances, forthright flute solos ascend through reverberant chambers, then brood over their own worth. Thrusting percussive rhythms rumble beneath swooning steel guitar solos. Snapping with a seductive skill, drums invigorate the mood, but we find the foreground is commanded by a writhing fuzz lead line – moaning through electrical circuits. Remote synth strings project both fragility and flashes of brilliance. Further down below we encounter tectonically imagined realms of biomorphic abstractions meant to beckon and boggle. Here Rich seems to reach into silence – bringing back something which may glow warmly, or just as easily, feel cold and damp. A mist to the brittle spirit, Robert Rich in concert is an event which celebrates the complexity of the human mind. The transit between quiet cerebral musings and propulsive visceral thrills seems to generate this album’s own energy. Like Rich himself, and the music he realizes live, Live at The Gatherings 2015 is authentic. It both belongs to our era, and transcends it. We are the meaning-seeking animals, and Rich, at some great height, is constantly searching within himself for something deeper to express. Passion… is it the friction between the world and the soul? If so, then Robert Rich’s concert space is about passion, as well as pleasure. It also acts as an outlet for intellect – and a bit of musical virtuosity. So, while each audience member is entitled to their own personal interpretations, the common connection here is the ability of this experience to connected us to that which is humane, gentle and life-giving – a function which we see slowly receding from the modern life.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 25 May 2017

Robert Rich/Markus Reuter: Lift a Feather to the Flood

Lift a Feather to the Flood

Lift a Feather to the Flood

Robert Rich/Markus Reuter: Lift a Feather to the Flood
Released: 12 April 2017

Robert Rich & Markus Reuter are well-known for their many musical journeys – from the back of beyond to the brink of the mainstream. On Lift a Feather to the Flood (66’00”) they mainly explore tonality, and many of its subtle shades and moods. With Rich at the grand, and Reuter breathing out atmospheres and textures from his touch guitar and synth, this duo realizes eight subtle thought zones meant for pondering and questioning – more so than assurance and confirmation. On Lift a Feather to the Flood we do find the dignified, stately procession of reverberant piano notes walking thoughtfully through a cloudy haze of digital mist. But the most potent pieces are made with an ear for light, motion and surface – compositions that we must reason our way through. It is in these deepest moments that we may feel this album’s personal tone. As they work in this unique frequency, using melody and harmony likes signs and symbols, Rich & Reuter lean into the Avant-Garde. Locating tone is their mission, and the production of these rarefied ambient zones touches a distinctive, inquiring energy, and maybe even a bit of our fear of the unknown. This work does seem to be searching, just for the stimulation of it – with Rich & Reuter sharing their deep wondering about music, humanity and life. This duo knows about this music’s secret mind, and in their dreamy, drifting, lulling, pulling sonics, we approach something like the actual flow of consciousness.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 18 May 2017

Robert Rich: Vestiges



Robert Rich: Vestiges
Released: 17 November 2016

The language we learn determines how we think, how we perceive reality. Robert Rich uses a language based in symbols – communicating his values and beliefs through non-verbal means… which begs us to contemplate the man and the mind behind such unique music. His album Vestiges (62’31”) may be thought of as made up of seven conventions for abstract thought. Its sonic range, with an extraordinary spectrum of tonal gradations, conveys a sense of infinitude. In this playground where listeners may exercise their imaginations, this album represents Rich at the intersection of what he knows, what he does, and who he is. Vestiges has a wondrous chaotic beauty. In a demonstration of sheer musical and intellectual mastery he moves easily between moods eerie and anxious, then sober and cerebral. Moving always in measured coolness, at one moment Vestiges may produce unsettling portraits of fragility, then easily transcend into a structure that could swallow you whole. Grave, gorgeous steel guitar snakes between notes, amidst a seductive whispering piano. The use of field recordings provides subtlety, which augments this work’s surreal gentility. Some sonic forms move nervously through Vestiges, as Rich makes negative space (often thought of as the absence of content) into a rhetorical device. The release of atmosphere into a movement in which space is tightly compressed is evocative of macrocosmic genesis, while further along our journey forward we notice the laser-like focus and urgent force of a more primitive utterance. Diffuse drones draw their breath beneath reverberant flute tones, as some sections display Rich’s tendency to infest every moment with such intense detail that the work cannot be appreciated as a whole. His soft poetic power gives rise to an unusually rich listening experience. Robert Rich seems to know that the world contains many hidden, magical geographies – as he has spent a lifetime mapping them. With Vestiges he realizes a realm for one, in which to ponder the many beautiful, generative things happening in the world – all the while peering deeply and intently into the places where a person is most vulnerable.

– Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END 15 December 2016

Robert Rich: What We Left Behind

What We Left Behind

What We Left Behind

Robert Rich: What We Left Behind
Released: 2 May 2016

Spending some time in Robert Rich‘s world will cause us to perceive our own a little bit differently. His CD What We Left Behind (62’24”) possesses such a unique quality of sound. In these 12 perspectives from a different mind, we hear a soft poetic power. Summoned from a breathing, breathy palette of reverberant flutes, mysterious melodies are rendered sluggish by a mystic atmosphere. Further in, steel guitar notes bend, echo and loop along a snakelike arc – in a narrative meant to reach us at our primitive core. Vague forms take a while to reveal themselves, in sections so slow, we barely find a pulse. When it is drifting rudderless What We Left Behind leads us by fields of purple and gray, plus amorphous environmental shapes – underneath of which is absolute silence. En route to a vivid sleep, we encounter earthen rhythms – ancient, exact and mythic. As magnitude synth chords rise amidst reedy tones and slow dark drums, Rich’s vivid sonic realm turns solid, then cloudy, threatening, then joyful, abstract, and then referential. While our sound space in one section melts in neuronal heat, in the next it beats gradually alive in ceremonial majesty. As a strain of notes move through the humid air of What We Left Behind, we hear a musical organism taking shape. Rich covers quite a bit of ground on this album. While others may grope for definite knowledge, Rich the enchanter seems calm in his restless sonics – moving somewhere forward, trying to connected with his future self. This music is a practice. To make it, one certainly must learn its technology – but to fully comprehend it, one might have to learn its philosophy.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END7 July 2016