ROBERT RICH: Tactile Ground (2018)
“Tactile Ground is a good album where the ambiences literally stick to the spirit behind each composition”
CD 1 Tactile Ground Part 1: Location 57:06
1 The Sentience of Touch 9:02 2 Eroding Columns 7:58 3 Shrouded Lattice 9:20 4 A Skein for Skin 9:12 5 The Abiding Wheel 7:05
6 Language of Breezes 14:30 CD 2 Tactile Ground Part 2: Dislocation 59:31 1 Radiant Groundlines 7:46 2 Haptic Incursions 9:14 3 Glassmaker's Sand 5:02 4 Senescent Architecture 4:30
There are Robert Rich's albums that require a little more attention. Attention to detail as a greater openness, allowing a better connection between the musician-composer and the listener. TACTILE GROUND is one of those albums. In the wake of Lift A Feather to the Flood, this latest Robert Rich opus is cast in tranquility with phases of ambiences which flirt with nature set to music with his wide portfolio of sonic paintings. Ambiances are brought to our ears with incredible dexterity for bits of ghostly melodies which crumble their nostalgia in multiple twigs of solitude. Offered in a double-cd digipack, with a 16-page booklet, or in 24-bit Hi-Res download, as well as 16-bit FLAC, TACTILE GROUND is an exercise of poetry into music loaded of ambient phases and of carefully identified soundscapes which have me pulled off my reading (Stephen King's Outsider) with a smile of satisfaction hanging over my face as my ears found justification for the purchase of my latest loudspeakers.
Entitled Tactile Ground Part 1: Location, CD 1 begins its 57 minutes with a rain, tears of violins and a melody laid down by a nostalgic piano. We are not far from Lift A Feather to the Flood! Except that here, the guitar of Markus Reuter is replaced by winds more and more roaring, by dark orchestrations and by cries of birds in a frame became as well seraphic as cinematographic. Armed with the sounds of a barnyard, which can also be found in The Abiding Wheel, The Sentience of Touch deviates to the unexpected sun of Eroding Columns and its delicate, its evocative guitar effects, like an electronic owl in Pink Floyd's Meddle. Organic breezes, lines with metal contours which float and resound, a native blowgun and the beginnings of a secret bass line play with the mirages of intensity of this title which unites the two poles between the opening track and Shrouded Lattice. The piano is very elegant here with notes scattered in banks of ocher mist. We reach another level of intensity with A Skein for Skin which nourishes our ears with layers of ethereal voices and a pile of synth lines and waves to abyssal colors. A heavy shadow lurks there, adding a slight cinematographic thread to this music of gloomy atmospheres. Percussive effects are added to the final. They extend beyond the borders of The Abiding Wheel. A soft flute caresses these effects which grow with a tone of chimes slightly shaken by weak winds. Language of Breezes ends Location with over 14 minutes of warm or cozy breezes which follow the oblong curves of a music that does justice to its title. If the first CD goes pretty well, I cannot say otherwise of the second which proposes a sluggish and a deep dark music!
Odd chants of interstellar calves open the ambiences of Tactile Ground Part 2: Dislocation. Much like its title suggests, the music is set in context with lines of a radiant blue that projects its echo effects which fade into a muffled humming effect. Synth pads lay an aura of nebulosity while explosions are thundering in the background. The soft sighs of the synth and the explosions give a very Blade Runner vision to Radiant Groundlines. Haptic Incursions clings onto its finale, exploiting the same themes of moods by adding sober and organic percussive effects. The music is darker here because of the hue of the synth layers, which more chloroformic too. Robert Rich immerses his listener in a universe of atmospheres which flirts with a more experimental approach, as evidenced by the effects and some organic dialogues which awaken in Glassmaker's Sand. We drift in the caves of Senescent Architecture, where the breezes howl without ever attenuating the quiet shamanic percussion effects. Barely more translucent chords frolicking about these natural corridors which are the silent witnesses of the lure of cetaceans trapped in the sub-sea ice. Heat Island Effect takes us deeper into the bowels of darkness with rustlings which echo the lapping of water, while everything seems to crumble around Robert Rich's lurid ambiences. More radiant synth lines seem to pierce this universe surrounded by an organic and plasma life. They sink to the rocking layers of Dominion of Microns, without exploiting their sonic capacity. It's Tentative Unfolding that takes us out of the darkness with synth multilines whose colors and flavors are still bright, imitating songs of whales. I hear the dull enjoyment of a guitar facing this feast of luminescence. A probable feeling, since bells tinkle in the opening of Elevations which however preserves the very repentant vision of Tactile Ground Part 2: Dislocation. Tinkling, a bit like Tibetan's, bells which continues up until Meridian Respiration. A drone effect gradually flies over the place of the winds, while a breeze turns into flute chants for meditation. These charming breaths withstand the rising buzzing winds, leading TACTILE GROUND towards its sonic shroud.
I don't really know what these musicians think when they build works of the kind of TACTILE GROUND where the ambiences literally stick to the spirit behind each composition. I'm impressed by their visions that they manage to transpose into music or sonic drama. I found that TACTILE GROUND was an album difficult to consume, so much it's ambient and that life is stuck in the abyss of a bottomless odyssey. But the diehards, the aficionados of Robert Rich swear that it's his best one to date. I loved CD1 and I found CD2 was hard to put its charms over me, but I didn't stop reading for that.
Sylvain Lupari (March 1st, 2019) *****
Available at Robert Rich's Bandcamp