Also availlable as a limited production of 129 custom boxes containing offset prints of these ten photographs by David Agasi on heavy matte fibre acid-free paper, a signed and numbered page with artists' statements, and CD of music by Robert Rich. |
- Pathways [9:36]
- Fences [4:57]
- Circle Unwound [9:00]
- Passing Terrain [6:09]
- Glint in Her Eyes [6:25]
- Scent of Night Jasmine [9:09]
- Summer Thunder [4:27]
- Hollow Rings Longer [5:19]
- Weightless Morning [6:12]
The CD alone is available without the prints with photos replicated inside the booklet.
Okay, just go ahead and color me "awestruck" by this latest effort from Robert Rich. I thought Calling Down the Sky was a great immersive textural ambient experience (and it is), but Echo of Small Things takes Rich's talent for crafting evocative atmospheric ambient tone poems to an almost dizzying level. The integration of assorted environmental sounds (someone walking, the happy gurgling of a baby, nocturnal creatures, rain, wind and thunder) with constantly evolving layers of assorted electro organic musical elements is so flawless, so perfect, and so involving that I always found myself entirely absorbed in the recording, even when I didn't want to be (such as listening on headphones at my day job!). Besides the usual assortment of Rich musical instrumentation (his wonderfully emotive pedal steel guitar, his always sensual flutes, and various and sundry tones, drones and effects), Rich incorporates new (for him) synthesizer instrumentality, e.g. a TimewARP 2600, which doesn't just add new wrinkles to his trademark ambient compositions, but also introduces a whole new life to the music at times.
The gently reverberating retro EM tones in "Circle Unwound" are a perfect example. Non-syncopated pings and pongs bounce back and forth amidst swirling drones and rustling noises and the effect on headphones is almost exhilarating, even though the music itself is low-key.
What makes the biggest impact on this CD, though, is the overwhelming sense of humanity which permeates tracks like the opening "Pathways", the flute-driven "Scent of Night Jasmine" which rises like sultry incense, and the sparse beauty of "Hollow Rings Longer", which echoes the best of Rich's past work, e.g. Gaudi and Rainforest. I don't know why I have this strong evocation of the man behind the music, since the music is so obviously ambient in nature and (while not inaccessible) and is mostly comprised of snippets of melody or tunefulness, atmospheric textures, occasional percussion, and environmental sounds, but I do. Seldom do I "sense" the musician behind the recording as strongly as I do here. Maybe part of what I feel is the result of this album being a collaboration of sorts between Rich and photographer David Agasi (whose beautiful photos adorn the liner notes). The artist describes the aim of the music and likewise Agasi's images thusly (from the liner notes): "Our culture helps determine for us what we think is important and what we think is trivial, what is large and what is small. Yet meaning often waits at the periphery. Life happens in the gaps, in the soft-hued colors of the mundane, the accidental: a casual smile, the cycle of seasons, the view from a window, growing a garden, the smells and fabrics of home."
That's an excellent description of the emotional resonance of this amazing CD. Echo of Small Things surely ranks near the top (maybe even at the top?) of this artist's already considerable discography. Rich was obviously inspired to great heights by Agasi's photos (or, who knows, maybe it was the other way around?). Whatever the raison d'etre for this album, fans of moody yet warm, atmospheric yet intimate, and personal yet universal music should seek out this album immediately. In a year that has seen an abundance of good music so far, Echo of Small Things rises above many of these not through any failing of the others but because of the keen ear and sensitive talents of Robert Rich.
The CD merits my highest and most unqualified recommendation.
2005. Bill Binkelman / Wind and Wire
Robert Rich advises those listening to Echo of Small Things (61'14") that, "meaning waits at the periphery." Yet Rich, an endlessly versatile musician, has once again produced an album of Ambient Music worthy of cognitive engagement. If there is a story behind every work of music, the forward to Echo of Small Things would cover Rich's association with photographer David Agasi.
Dark dreamers both, they posses a unique facility for creating distinctive atmospheric works of isolationism, environmental reverence and mournful beauty. Echo of Small Things is their first collaboration. If out of the mundane comes the profound, the magnification of nuance is each man's subtle achievement. As for the sonic half of this arrangement, Rich details a drifting soundscape of lovely drones, cloud-like flute tones, imaginative electronic modulations and field recordings, into a gradually unfolding examination of sound and mood.
Any rhythmic element within this work is either too subtle or spaced too far apart to be recognized. Attentive listening reveals harmonious components floating above layers of simultaneous contrasts. The sliding voice of Rich's steel guitar as well as the muted shades of his ethereal flute both bring a melodic component to this otherwise textural piece.
Equal parts intellectual structure and warming experience, this work is fulfilling to both the cerebral and the spiritual aspects of the mind.
On Echo of Small Things, Rich compounds the unidentified interstitial moments which lie between the eventful.
Chuck van Zyl / Star's End
A collaboration of image and sound - although listed here as a CD by Robert Rich, the photography of David Agasi is an integral part of this work. Conceived as "a limited production of 129 custom boxes containing offset prints of ten photographs by David Agasi on heavy matte fibre acid-free paper, a signed and numbered page with artists' statements, and CD of music by Robert Rich, this album is also available in the usual format with the photographs replicated inside the CD booklet.
The music is organic, melodic ambience with a variety of environmental sounds. Drones and whale-like shafts of sound slowly revolve with shifting densities whilst the musical surface is repeatedly ruffled by organic recordings. At times angel-soft and then gruff or thick, the aural mass is punctuated by muted chimes and a variety of less identifiable struck objects. Nine tracks run seamlessly into one long whole and are set alongside ten images - this inequality of number works to dissuade the assumption that specific photographs illustrate particular passages of sound. Robert Rich is credited with MOTM modular, TimewARP 2600, Sculpture, lap steel guitar, flutes and small things.
The value of the 'incidental' suffuses this package - the music often appearing effortless, almost like something happened upon, yet it is clearly steeped in purpose. The slow monumental nature of much of the composition is set against the close-up, transient nature of various shufflings, disturbances, found spaces and distant thunder. Sleeve notes talk of "beauty and depth of small things ... meaning in the poetry of the everyday ... meaning often waits at the periphery".
Clearly the artwork for "Echo of Small Things" is fully half of the project. David Agasi's stills, made "without premeditation" help focus the shifting layers Robert's atmospheric music - whilst the music, in turn, channels the chosen perception of the imagery. Having the standard CD format version of this release I'm unable to comment fully on the photo prints, but in the context of the CD booklet, these ten monochrome shots frame the intimate and the everyday with the same sense of space and beauty developed in the audio section. The front cover image hints at the quality of the limited edition - a rich, sensual selection that is something more than black and white.
The promotional material for Echo of Small Things says "Longtime friends Agasi and Rich inspire each other with image and sound. Ten of Agasi's haunting sensual photos unite with Rich's calm reflective soundscapes in this unique creative meeting, focusing eye and ear on the beauty of the intimate and peripheral." On the back of the booklet we have three paragraphs from each artist discussing the project and the work of his collaborator. The imagery resists a narrative reading despite being laid out sequentially and although the pictures are strongly cropped, they aren't abstract - similarly the music has some definite melodic elements lifting it clear of minimal ambience, yet again, a narrative reading is too narrow for these interwoven pieces.
Ambient lovers that enjoy music as art, fans of contemporary photography that appreciate deep immersion into vision and sound. If you like ambient music with melodic patterns and plenty of shifts - try Echo of Small Things.
"Echo of Small Things" is a collection of sounds and images from a collaboration between ambient pioneer Robert Rich and his friend and photographer David Agasi.
In over 60 minutes of music, Agasiís sensual photography unites with Richís haunting, reflective soundscapes, both focusing on the beauty and depth of moments in everyday life, of which normally we are not overtly aware of. Staying organic all the way, Robertís captivating deep sound design, contained in 9 tracks, is very moving and intimate. This is emotional and well crafted music, and it is melancholic, dreamy and floating, at times. This disc deserves close listening, and the listening is not to be disturbed by life in the fast lane from the outside world.
This is music for introspection and to clear or slow down our busy minds. Very well done, Robert!