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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Robert Rich - Sunyata/Inner Landscapes [Hypnos - 2013]

From 2013 hereís a double CD reissue of two early releases from Us ambient legend Robert Rich. The release brings together (most of) Robertís first ever release 1982ís Sunyata on the first disc, and on the second disc we have all of 1987ís Inner Landscapes(which conists of live recordings from 1985).

This  reissue follows the look of the other 2013 reissue of Robertís work Trances & Drones. As it comes in  6-panel digipak- this takes abstract oil paintings of various layers of shapes & textures, which of course is most fitting for ambient music. The set also comes with  an eight page booklet taking in a new two page write-up about the making of these two releases, along with original release covers, and early pictures of Rich performing his sleep concerts.

So on the first disc we have two tracks from Roberts first ever release 1982ís Sunyata- this originally appeared as a c90 cassette tape on Richís own label Soundscape Productions.  The album takes its name from the Buddhist concept that all things in the material world are empty of meaning and independence. 

The albums original release featured three tracks- "Dervish Dreamtime", "Sunyata (Emptiness)", and "Oak Spirits". But for this reissue you just get two, though the missing title track appears on the Trances & Drones reissue. That said this release still has a long running time of over 70 mintues.  So first up on the disc we have ďDervish DreamtimeĒ- this track comes in at just shy of the 20 minute mark, and I guess youíd say itís one of Richís more simplistic takes on his early & drifting ambient work. Itís built around this very slow moving set of stripped back ambient tones- Iím guessing itís some form of modified & stretched out guitar texture. These tones unfold in a sort of spacey & hazed hovering drone- these are both semi harmonic & rising, with a slightly sinister undertone.  The tracks ok I guess, and works as effective snapshot of Richís early stab at ambience, but for me it just feels a little too rudimentary & sparse for its own good.

The other track on disc one is "Oak SpiritĒ, and this takes up the lion share of this disc at 43 minute mark. This track is more of a lose yet chilling affair- apparent it was a purely improvised track that was built around effect & echo filtered field recordings(from the creek near Richís grandparents house) &  cluster of notes held down on the prophet 5 synthesizer.  The track is both haunting, mysterious & a more than little unsettling, with its mix of modified  layers field recordings (taking water & wind sounds) & the simmering/hovering/shimmering synth note cluster. On the whole it's a lot more compelling & layered work than the first track, and you really do  mange to both drift away yet also get sucked into the tracks sound world.


Disc two is taken up by Inner Landscapes- this once again was originally released in a cassette form, and it appeared in the form of a c90 on experimental UK label Auricle in 1987. On the original tape they were seven separately titled tracks, but for the CD we have eight tracks which are name "parts 1 to 8".  Inner Landscapes really is a classic slice of early Rich-& though the release is split up into eight tracks; really this has to be played as one long 70 plus minute track.  The releases title is extremely apt as the whole thing feels like you are drifting from one internal landscape to another, as Rich slowly morphs & ebbs the work from dense & distict ambient unfolds, to more  stripped back, ghostly & wispy like ambient drifts. Through-out he keeps you captivated with both his enchanting & often slowly uncurling melody lines, and the pure ambient tonally mastery he posses.  I could go through a track by track break down, but really I think with a work like this itís best to go into it blind, and let you mind wonder & drift off with-in the work.

All in all this is another very worthy reissues of Mr Richís early work- sure I did find the first track on disc one a little underwhelming & undeveloped, but from this point onwards itís pure ambient gold.  Really if you  have only a passing interest in ambience both this & the Trances & Drones reissue are must have items!.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Roger Batty
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