Robert Rich, serious auralnaut
Part IV. Initially I acquainted myself with the artistry of Robert Rich via his collaborating with Steve Roach on the superb Strata from 1991; but, probably I got to hear it sometime in 1993. By 1993 Rich had released ten records. Yet, at the time, I didn’t seek to unravel the Rich strand in Strata, and so he wasn’t on my radar screen. This all changed the first year working back in a record store. It was 1995 and my very hip assistant manager Chris (aka DJ Weirton,) hipped me to illbient and other urban electronic music. To make a short story shorter, both of us were all over certain labels, so when Asphodel dropped the two sets, A Swarm of Drones, and A Storm of Drones, that year, each slid into the CD player in the store pronto.
The compilations spread a massive exhalation of drones over seven sides. There, amongst tracks by Steve Roach, Ellen Fullman, Stuart Dempster, DJ Spooky, Robert Fripp and Robert Rich–those being the the only participants I was familiar with–were a host of new lights about to shine in my deep space cosmos.
Yet it was Rich and his tracks Bouyant On a Motionless Deluge, and and an excerpt from The Smorgh Sleeps On Velvet Tongues, that leaped out. I jumped on two records released the previous year, Propagation and Rainforest. Wow. Robert Rich’s ambient vision was, at that time, a bit more advanced than that of Steve Roach. His music was more diverse and the tribal elements more organic. I wouldn’t make this distinction about their relative standing today; after all, to me Roach and Rich are the equivalent of Miles Davis and John Coltrane in ambient music. But, back then, Rich’s mellow, exotic, shapely and spacy music drew me to it with an even greater siren song.
Alas, his older records were hard to get. A compilation drawn from those older records, A Troubled Resting Place, helped my investigation. I was restless, and, then excited to learn Rich had a new record finished, a collaboration, with one B. Lustmord.
Stalker. I will say this: it’s the ambient music that had the most far-reaching impact on me. It is in the same esteemed place with respect to my appreciation of ambient artistry as Mingus’s The Black Saint & the Sinner Lady is in with respect to my appreciation of jazz artistry. This is to suggest that it was through dealing with Stalker, that I began to intuit how deep was the craft and technique involved in etching sound worlds where events could be said to happen slowly.
Not as prolific as his peer Steve Roach, Rich continues to present a masterpiece every so often. Although Rich’s tribal ambient style is sustained these days in various collaborations, when left to only his own devices he seems to be recently zeroing in on a simmering, very slow, mellow dark ambient sonic vision. He’s got no competition as a drone-maker.