“Robert Rich just made a beautiful poetic album”
1 Alba 4:16
2 Kaaruwana 6:18
3 Macula 6:27
4 Cornea 5:24
5 Crepescule 6:39
6 Pollen 7:33
7 Callyx 5:58
8 Salamander Quay 7:37
9 Helios 10:42
(CD/DDL 69:54) (V.F.)
Robert Rich always succeeds in creating a musical world where emotions and spirituality nourish beautiful contemplative structures. Following the precepts established in Ylang, the American multi-instrumentalist offers in MEDECINE BOX a meditative album where ancestral rhythms beat on a skillful fusion of instruments and more contemporary sound samples. In doing so, it offers 9 very good tracks with astonishing tribal atmospheres which swing between the ambient and the soft rhythms both hypnotic and progressive. Here is a journey to the heart of countries without borders, where a bewitching shamanic karma reigns.
A rich amalgam of undulating pulsations, flowing bass chords and hand percussions open the very fluid rhythm of Alba. Fine guitar riffs stick to this quiet structure, throwing a soft jazzed veil and also opening the way for superb floating solos which whisper like spectral laments above the bewitching drums. With its peaceful rhythm, which hooks from the first listening, Alba introduces us into a musical universe rich in subtlety, both in genres and in tones. Kaaruwana's rhythm is more ambivalent. Between bursts of pulsations and percussions that tumble down felted corridors and a certain restraint in a quavering approach inflicted by the sweet angelic voice of Cheri Chuang, Kaaruwana gives off a more ethereal, even supernatural ambience, which is all the same bitten by a good bass with juicy chords. This ghostly vibe overlooks the whole album, regardless of the rhythmic approaches. Macula presents a good musical canvas with lascivious percussions whose strikes seem frozen in time and resonate among ethereal layers and voices, drawing an atmosphere both spectral and intriguing. The piano is as discreet as magical, spreading a nice meditative melody and covering of its melancholic notes a structure which is at the gates of an astral trance. It's a very good title on this last Robert Rich opus which weaves a good sound web where songs of birds, glass-tones xylophones and weakened cymbals adorn a world without borders. Crepescule is more or less in the same register, except that the flutes bring a more poetic and tribal touch. Cornea transports us to the mysteries of the New Orleans' bayous with a nebulous rhythmic approach. The bass is slow and coos under percussion strikes with convoluted sounds while the harmonica blows a black melody just as confused. Like a kind of western with dark jazz tendencies.
The gentle breaths of a thoughtful flute open Pollen. Aboriginal tam-tams offer a soft, wavering rhythm that Cheri Chuang's sweet meditative voice envelops of a bewitching spiritual aura. The bass is delicious and delicately bites into this bewitching rhythm that gradually bustles over good riffs, more and more anxious pulsations and palpitations and solid drum hits, guiding Pollen into another intensive spiritual trance. It's a very good passage on the album where the bass brings back old memories of a certain Patrick O'Hearn. A little gem! Adopting this model of ambient crescendo, Callyx is just as delicious with its percussions which marry the death knell of the chimes and its layers of spectral guitars. Molded in the paths of Pollen, voices in less, Salamander Quay remains dark and very ambient. The atmosphere is heavy and fascinating, a bit like an intense Amerindian incantation, in which beautiful bits of melodies circulate and all wrapped in the silks of flutes or pianos. Helios closes this latest opus of Robert Rich in a superb musical canvas that depicts all the facets of MEDECINE BOX. Breaths of flutes are float above a mixture of percussions mixed to bass pulsations. This shamanic intro comes to life little by little on the strikes more and more nourished of the drumming pattern which drum to the rhythms of fine tribal trances. Carried away by the breaths of the flute and the languid impulses of the cello, the rhythm of Helios progresses in a nice crescendo of emotions and in hypnotic rhythms before being stranded on the meditative and ambient ice floes. Cheri Chuang's angelic voice resurfaced. Her breaths blend with voices and celestial layers, sweeping away the sinuous reverberations and calming down the tribal ardor with a sweet heavenly incantation.
MEDECINE BOX is a beautiful poetic album. On ambivalent rhythms and nebulous ambiences, where mythical American folklore is imbued with a fascinating shamanic aura, Robert Rich weaves a bewitching and captivating musical universe. Like in Ylang, the music is poles apart from a cerebral beauty with its intriguing moods as much spectral as supernatural and its breaths of ancestral spirits which sing under the cover of a more modern technology.
Sylvain Lupari (December 21st, 2011) *****
Available at Robert Rich Bandcamp