ROBERT RICH: Ylang (2010)
Updated: Apr 15
“Ylang is as much beautiful as the unknown can be attractive”
1 Ambergris 4:14
2 Translucent 4:59
3 Attar 6:38
4 Verbena 5:03
5 Kalyani 8:09
6 Vetiver 6:25
7 Tamarack 5:38
8 Charukesi 7:11
9 First Rain 4:59
(CD/DDL 53:16) (V.F.)
Tree from the Philippines, the Ylang-Ylang produces an essential oil widely used for perfumes. It's also the title of Robert Rich's first solo album since Illumination back in 2007. This last opus of the multi-instrumentalism American is also perfumed of an equatorial and tropical smell with a multi-ethnic approach where the scents of a universe as Native American's than Asian are nearer of oneiric approach very close to Buddhism and Tibetan spirituality. With YLANG, Robert Rich offers a cerebral journey to the heart of the Southeast Asia forests on tribal structures from an unknown and enchanting world. The tribal percussions sculpt enigmatic latent and lascivious aboriginal rhythms on the breaths of an omnipresent flute mixed to angelic vocals.
A light rain, delicate forgotten piano notes and a solitary flute introduce the first chords of Ambergris. The rhythm falls. Tired, it folds its spine in front of the multiple layers of a spectral guitar and of a tearful synth which surround this musical firmament from which escape chords forgotten in the air. Dancing percussions sculpt a half sensual and half ghostly rhythm, like in Tamarack. Although the latter is more accessible and bewitching with its Lap Steel Guitar whose waves float like wandering specters. The rhythms on YLANG are very subtle, if not too discreet to such an extent that the impression of being in a lifeless jungle seems very real at times. They are however present, except that the very dense sound texture camouflages a very ambivalent rhythmic architecture. Translucent and Verbena are perfect examples. The rhythm takes shape from strange tribal incantations. Without ever exploding or progressing excessively, they beat in a rich sound atmosphere and serve as foundations for very poetic and dreamlike musical structures where manual percussions, flutes, ethereal voices and synth with slightly nervous layers dress the complex universe of this album. There are a lot of flutes here. They are the key elements of the intros of Attar and Kalyani where slamming percussions and jazzed bass draw a slow morphic tempo. Two good enigmatic titles because of their crosses between a Tibetan mystical world which rub shoulders with the slow and sensual structures of jazz, they waddle languorously on good Aboriginal percussions and a sound flora very rich in tribal variations.
Vetiver is the title that most closely resembles the desert universe of Robert Rich (there is also Tamarack). The percussions are rich and animate moving structures with hybrid percussive tones. The title revolves in a vague ambience where the breaths of flutes intermingle with synth pads and angelic vocalizations which structure a dark arid world. A good title that takes all its impact with a good pair of headphones! With a progressive rhythm that shakes itself under a flute with Native American scents, Charukesi is like a slow Indian procession. This track without precise rhythms draws its energy via the frenzied flute of Robert Rich. Languid, plaintive and melancholy, First Rain closes this musical adventure with orchestrations to make melt indifference. Here again, the rhythm is undecided, sailing on a sea of xylophoned keys and rich strata of violins which surround a discreet plaintive synth and the notes of a lonely piano.
YLANG is as beautiful like the unknown can be attractive! Through its 9 titles, Robert Rich manages to weave a musical structure of a fascinating beauty if one lets our self be coaxed by his magic musician spells. Unless you are an absolute fan of the American musician, this is an album that needs to be tamed. And it's easier than you think with titles like Ambergris, Vetiver and Tamarack which are beautiful moments set to music. I liked to discover these strange and bewitching rhythms, which do not know if they dance or if they get bogged down in an eclectic and poetic universe which is the fruit of the fertile imagination of Robert Rich.
Sylvain Lupari (May 5th, 2010)***¾**
Available at Robert Rich Bandcamp