Does anyone need an introduction to Robert Rich? This prolific ambient artist has been at the forefront of the ambient/techno music scene since 1989 when he released his first album, Rainforest. This was soon followed by a partnership with Steve Roach, the grandmaster of ambient soundscapes on two subsequent releases, Strata and SoMa. Having cemented his place at the top of the ambient music hierarchy, Rich has gone on to release CD after CD of topnotch music that defines the genre.
Much of Rich's work has been shaded toward the dark, deeper side of ambient music, either as if exploring caverns and subterranean worlds, or unraveling the complexities of mathematical relationships, as in Gaudi and Geometry.
There remain touches of this deep, sometimes somber aspect of Rich's work in Echo of Small Things, however the intent of the music is focus on the things that occur between the significant and the trivial. As Rich states in his liner notes, "meaning often waits at the periphery." Much like Brian Eno's seminal Music For Airports made the music become part of the aural landscape, so does Echo of Small Things. There is still the signature Rich touch, however, with long drones, deep bass passages and sometimes-eerie tonalities.
The CD is completely fluid. Although there are nine tracks listed, they segue from one to another seamlessly, the timbre and mood changing ever so subtly as the tunes slowly merge into each other. Slight environmental influences are also felt, hints of wind in Circle Unwound, the feeling of motion in Passing Terrain, bells and peals of thunder in Summer Thunder, all contribute to the concept of things in between, the "things we stop seeing," as Rich says.
It is with justified reason that the name Robert Rich is placed among the top ranks of the practitioners of ambient music. Echo of Small Things continues that justification.
by Fred Puhan