Robert Rich | Trances & Drones

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Trances & Drones

by Robert Rich

A new archival edition of Robert Rich's influential double releases from 1983, with threefold Digipack and 8 page booklet. Deep subterranean ambient music by one of the pioneers of the genre.
Genre: Electronic: Ambient
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
clip
1. Cave Paintings
23:54 album only
clip
2. Hayagriva
25:13 album only
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3. Sunyata (Emptiness)
22:52 album only
clip
4. Seascape
29:59 album only
clip
5. Wheel of Earth
28:00 album only
clip
6. Resonance
12:19 album only
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.

ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
Listeners present for Robert Rich's earliest music, going back to his time at Stanford, may recall the early 80s cassette releases of Trances and Drones as separate albums. Most of us became familiar with Trances/Drones as a unified ambient masterwork on double CD, first released on the Extreme label in 1994, then reissued by Release/Relapse in 2000.

As an enthusiast of ambient and drone music, before I started Hypnos recordings in 1996, I remember Trances & Drones as one of the most significant influences on my evolving sense of what ambient music could be: psychologically powerful; not just relaxing but transporting; a way of summoning dreamlike or visionary states while awake.

I remember lying in darkness, listening to a rotation of favorite CDs that included Trances/Drones. This recording seemed to convey something sacred or otherworldly, well beyond the detached "spacey" quality to which most such music aspires. This powerful effect derives from Robert's mingling of organic "earthy" sounds, such as flute, guitar and voice, along with spacious drifting textures from electronic sources.

My own philosophies regarding the aesthetics of atmospheric music formed to the backdrop of this soundtrack. Hypnos could not exist without that influence.

- Mike Griffin, May 2013

======================================================

Recorded in 1983, towards the end of Robert's psychology studies at Stanford, Trances and Drones reveal the slower, more meditative side of Robert's music. This pair of albums may be among the most intensely purposeful of Robert's releases, reflecting a purely contemplative almost esoteric approach to trance music. It may surprise you to learn that at the time Robert recorded these albums, he considered them to be relatively "active" compared to his prior work. His live performances up to this point consisted of 9-hour, all-night sleep concerts which typically started around 10pm and wrapped up around 7 in the morning.
(From the album notes by Rick Davies.)


Robert Rich: Trances / Drones (2-CD, 71:57 and 70:14); (review of a previous edition)

Gaining a descriptive foothold when reviewing ambient music is like collecting quicksilver into discernable word-shapes -- an elusive moment frozen in time. When I sample over 142 minutes of Robert Rich's Trances / Drones release and so set it to paper, then to disks, then to cyberspace -- art loses its energy, I am wordless, stunned, drained.
This 2-CD offering is 1982-83 Richscapes remastered in 1993 for re-release in 2000. Old wines hold a special treasure to be discovered many years later. And so it is with Rich's vintage works. This is an unadorned, simple yet rich ambience. It is full of unseen power and subtle in its manner of delivery. It overwhelms without smothering. It soothes without the overdone and boring, standard- industry-ambient-isms, (such "amb-boring-isms" will be discussed in a future article soon). Anyway, I find this release a wonderful break from "the norm".
Rich was finishing his psychology studies at Stanford when these pieces first became reality. Rich was well aware of brain functions, sleep cycles, and also big into the lucid dream research thing then. (I too have unsuccessfully tried holding my hand up in front of my face and/or speaking my name aloud in dreams to establish a higher consciousness in dreamsleep.) These six tracks are created then, with purpose, focused on the brain and a manipulation/massaging of "rest-plateaus". Rich actually held "sleep-gigs' where people arrived with sleeping bags ready for the 10pm - 7am concert. Such musicks of that Rich era are now available for mass consumption.
Sonic lulls, uniform restfulness, deep-level ambient psyche- shifts are now ready for the comfort of your living room instead of the 80's sleeping bag scene. Rich's pieces are neither bright nor airy. They are descending clouds of Hypnos, heavy gauze, almost dark yet more ethereal than noir-tension threatening. This beatless, non-melodic, huge waved, walls-of-sound entity -- topples, melts, and immerses the psyche beneath the everyday din. You are carried into subterrene voids, weightlessly drifting above enigma, and that separation of mind/body/3-D space/time flow awareness quickly loses former definition. You will only understand me after you hear Rich. This is music before Rich got rhythmic, dripping, echoed, dark and well-known in noir-amb and ethnic/tribal percussives. This is Rich on his first thresholds of ambient middle-earth. This stuff is the stuff -- resonating a purity of form and accomplishing the brain's wavestates Rich was so fascinated with decades ago. For those of you needing references: think David Parsons' Himalaya stripped down, slowed to 16 rpm or Klaus Schulze's X in a holding pattern around his most non- sequenced "space-out' fugues. This a very minimal, very approachable ambience that will absolutely mesmerize you. Highest of recommendations. Good night listener, see you in dreamland . . . ~ John W. Patterson

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Reviews


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Richard Gurtler

The return of the Milestone!!!
I was always dreaming about penning down few lines on this very special recording, I think today is the right day, so let's do it. Yes, "Trances/Drones" is a very important recording for me, I still keep clearly in mind the day in 1995 when Extreme edition of "Trances/Drones" crossed my targets. My sonic explorations were culminating around that time. But as soon as "Hayagriva" invaded my listening room, I knew something special is about to happen... Yes, a brand new gates were unlocked, a definite turning point!!! Of course at that day I didn't know too much about the guy named Robert Rich, but soon after that I dove deeper into the soundworlds of Robert Rich and soon realized amazing facts about this release. Robert Rich has recorded tracks for "Trances/Drones" during 1982 and 1983, aged between 19 and 20 years old. And this is what fascinates me the most!!! This was also the period of time, when Robert Rich has given his legendary sleep concerts during his studies at Stanford University. All these recordings were a truly visionary work, that soon became a base for his future extensive body of work. Firstly released as three separate cassettes "Sunyata", "Trances" and "Drones" by Robert's own Soundscape Productions label, in 1994 for the first time presented as a double CD edition "Trances/Drones" by Australian Extreme label featuring most of the tracks from these three cassettes, in remastered versions (remastered in 1993 by Robert Rich with the assistance of HoS veteran Bob Olhsson). First reissue followed during 2000 on US label Release Entertainment, a sublabel of Relapse Records. Now, 13 years later, we can celebrate a really gorgeous, richly repackaged digipak reissue by Hypnos (big thanks to Mike Griffin!!!) in collaboration with Robert's Soundscape Productions, released during July, 2013. The return of the Milestone!!!

Maybe it's not usual reviewing 30-year old recordings, but I don't mind, because this music sounds exceptional and it keeps on revealing its magic even in 2013!!! Also excuse me for being too personal in this review, but these are my feelings about "Trances/Drones" and this is the way I will always treasure this extraordinary piece of art!!!

The journey unfolds with "Cave Paintings", the listener is immediately transported into mysterious forest, falling night with serenading cicadas-like sounds, the full immersion invades, the darker, drone passages are stunningly intermingled with lighter traceries and rather high-pitched, soaring lap steel guitar expressions, always harmoniously fitting and progressing. Slightly nostalgic feel surrounds the entire, 24-minute long composition. A virtuoso opening!!! The next track, a 25-plus minutes long opus, is entitled "Hayagriva", a live recording. It dives straightly into breathtaking abyssal realms, modular synth drones meander through spectacularly magnificent cascades, drifting from more resonating, heavy weight passages through phantasmal, dramatic elevations to ear-tickling dissonances. This is extremely mind-blowing sonic experience, one of the most intense I have ever heard, what a journey!!! "Sunyata (Emptiness)" is the oldest piece on "Trances", recorded in 1982. With this composition, Robert Rich invites each listener to enter uncharted shadowy terrains and explore uniquely organic soundscape at its most primordial. Sounds of gentle rain drops and chirping frogs are merged with dense drone walls and strange flute-infused roars. And guarded throughout by otherworldly amorphous groans. A must have for all connoisseurs of the finest deepness and darkness!!! All in all, "Trances" is enormously triumphant sonic adventure, introducing among others bamboo flute and lap steel guitar magics, which later became significant characteristics of Robert Rich's brilliant soundsculpting.

"Drones" reveal tranquilly with 30-minute "Seascape". It exactly sounds as it is titled, elegantly warm, atmospheric cascades are blanketed by soothing ocean wave sounds. As the composition proceeds, calm coastal landscape continuously expands into more disruptive, yet continuously immersing drone bliss. Lots of beautiful meanders, hauntingly serene drifts invade and fade away, then deeply mindscaping shifts steal the show with resonating drone walls and eerie moans. Then smoothly gliding back to more aerial and restful shoreline panoramas. Echoed string wizardry takes "Seascape" to its conclusion. A truly phenomenal composition!!! "Wheel Of Earth", only slightly shorter as its predecessor, swiftly reveals its magic with the invasion of ultra deep slow drones, shortly from the back, milder, soaring fragments sneak in to thick the overall sound massiveness, which strongly embraces with its monotonousness. This is Robert Rich at his most mesmerizing!!! "Resonance" free falls into immeasurable deep chasm of coldly resonating hums intertwined with intangible dim fragments. Ghostly dronescapes provide really serious exercise for your speakers and additional massage for your belly too... By the way, "Resonance" is an exclusive track to this set, recorded in 1983, it didn't appear on any of the three above mentioned cassette releases. And undoubtedly, "Drones" are as much fascinating and glowing as "Trances"!!!

Robert Rich is one of the true masters of our genre, monstrously talented, creative, sophisticated and distinguishing!!! Today, at August 23rd, 2013, when I am publishing these lines, Robert Rich celebrates his 50th Birthday. This is my little big thanks, Robert, for all your wonderful music, enjoy this special day as much as we enjoy your essential sonic innovations throughout all these years!!! We all have a special day every time you release a new album!!!

Richard Gürtler (Aug 23, 2013, Bratislava, Slovakia)
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