I’ve mentioned Robert Rich is a big influence on my own approach to sound design and ambient music. (The biggest difference is he is a master and I’m a charlatan.) What I have always responded to in Rich’s soundworld is the way he conjoins slow developing abstract sonics with at times tactile organic, and painterly ambient landscapes. As a listener, one can almost reach out and touch his sound.
As a musician he has been plying the analog waters for decades. Although he conducts his soundworld from a laptop these days, his genius is expressed through his command of modular synthesis. To this he adds (usually,) heavily treated flute, pedal steel guitar, and percussion.
Here’s an example of his innovative use of modular synthesizers.
Ambient music pioneer Robert Rich uses the MOTM-730 VC Divider to trigger 4 voices in synchopation, but with non-standard timing. He refers to this as the ‘penny in the dryer’ effect. | src
Robert Rich portal at Synthtopia. Interviews, performances, and a five part series on synthesizers.
Interview-podcast podcast at solipsisticnation/
In the years that followed he developed a complex range of sounds founded upon the seamless integration of electronic, electric, and acoustic instrumentation, and the exploration of complex just tunings. His music continues to tend toward the organic and much of it is based on a concept in synthesis he refers to as glurp. His interest in using unique sounds has inspired him to create a large collection of original field recordings and homemade instruments. One of these instruments is a range of flutes made from PVC pipe. | wikipedia
Rich has issued, on average, about one record per year over 30 years. He’s collaborated with a lot of similarly evocative artists such as Alio Die, Ian Boddy, Markus Reuter. This includes masterful work with Steve Roach. Having absorbed almost every one, the best ones count as major masterpieces against his minor masterpieces. Sure, there have been a few missteps, but even these count as fascinating experiments. His so-called sleep concerts, where he unwinds hour after hour of archetypal lunar ambient sound are legendary. His very slow sleep music has been recorded, with Somnium being a highlight of his output.
Here’s are a handful of stone masterpieces to consider.
This compilation features recordings from 1993-1995, including The Simorgh Sleeps on Velvet Tongues, that was anthologized by Asphodel on Swarm of Drones. With drones, tribal meditations, and dark ambient excursions, this may be the only Rich record able to showcase the breadth of artistry.
My favorite Rich record is a collaboration with Brian Lustmord. Known for eerie, if not downright frightening, dark ambient, Lustmord’s aesthetic is slowed down and given the cinematic treatment by Rich, and Stalker ends up for me a relentlessly beautiful desert island disc.