Robert Rich is most famous for overnight concerts of ambient music for sleeping audiences, but "Below Zero", a compilation of material he released in the mid nineties, is the stuff of nightmares. These menacing, chilly pieces hold together well without sounding like a compilation. Dynamic ambient made from huge, rich synthesiser textures, it's by no means background music - these massive sounds are even more impressive for being focused on and wallowed in. There's a sense of high technology being used to the full, while its microtonal swarms recall "high art" reference points like the orchestral clusters of Ligeti. As well as pure sound colour it has a lot of dramatic gestures, massive swells and sweeps, so it avoids giving the impression of an expensive sound software demo. But since these moments don't tend to piece together into larger structures, its drama can be hard to engage with, at least at the pace lived by mortal humans. For instance, the tension created by the imposing opening of "Star Maker" dissolves into twenty minutes of otherworldly ruminating. Even so, it's not really about conventional drama, it's all about those luscious sounds and how they're transformed and manipulated. A couple of juicy moments to take home from your space travels include the marvellously evocative "A Flock Of Metal Creatures Fleeing The Onslaught Of Rust" and the massive choral effect that fills "Requiem".
June 17, 2008
See blog entry: Dark Ambient (17 Jun, 2008)