Neurogenesis expands the sound of modular analog and digital synthesizers into a bright and dynamic landscape, layered with shimmering kaleidoscopic microtonal patterns, pulsating, vibrating and evolving. Is this the sound of neurons growing?
Recorded from June 2019 to October 2020 by Robert Rich. Mixed and mastered by RR at Soundscape in October 2020. All compositions © 2020 by Robert Rich
Gear friends: Synthesis Technology, Sequential, ASM, Five12, Old Crow, STG, Intellijel, AudioDamage, 2C, Haken and others.
Using: MOTM & e520, Prophet 5-6-12-X, Hydrasynth, Haken Continuum, Eurorack, Lap Steel guitars, PVC flutes.
All pieces use the tuning system of just intonation.
Tunings: Harmonics (1); JIA 5,7-lim (2,6,7); 3-7 Lattice in A (3); Schmidt Slendro+2 (4); Other Music 7-lim (5).
Design by John Bergin
1. Neurogenesis 9:06
2. Convergent. 8:10
3. Proximal. 6:13
4. Connective. 7:57
5. Dendritic. 4:35
6. Arcadian. 5:22
7. Erinacea. 6:51
I started this album in Spring of 2019, inspired by a lucid dream that also spawned a cube-shaped painting. Vibrating and microtonal, shimmery and crystalline, Neurogenesis expresses optimism about the potential for human consciousness. At the start of pandemic lockdown in March, I stopped working on Neurogenesis to record “Offering to the Morning Fog” because listeners were asking for something very calm. I got back to work on Neurogenesis in June, and finished in late October. I had specific ideas for the artwork, and John Bergin did his magic again, to help me realize a visual language beyond my imagination.
From the very start, I planned Neurogenesis to come out on LP along with CD and download. (The LP has different artwork and liner notes from the CD, and comes on clear vinyl.) Unfortunately, vinyl pressing plants are running very slow, so the LP will not be available until March. The CDs should be here in mid-December, so I decided to release it now for Bandcamp and CD Pre-orders. CDs should ship before Christmas if all goes well. I do not plan to offer it to streaming services like Spotify or Pandora.
March 28, 2019: Dreaming of mathematics. I am looking at a cube, covered in curving lines that snake around the corners and map a multidimensional equation. Someone explains to me that the derivatives of these curves (like velocity is to position, and acceleration is to velocity) represent the edge sensors of an organism, which detect contrast and change in the environment at a fundamental pre-conscious level. We have edge detectors like this in our retina, which send efficiently coded signals to our brain to help us see details in the world more quickly.
As I mentally project this calculus onto the curves, I watch as they grow projections reaching back towards me, cilia growing out of an organism, whiskers, or fungal mats underground. This moment feels like the “sharpen” filter in a photo editor, heightening the contrast of everything around me. This helps me perceive that the derivative of my perception of time is the pinprick of the moment, an edge detector of quantum consciousness, the “bija” or particle of thought. Take the derivative of what seems to be linear perception, define its instantaneous curvature, exponentially sharpen it to better sense the verb that is time.
When I woke up from this dream, my mind was filled with an intuition of curves and power functions, like measuring waveforms of energy and quickly sensing their qualities at this precise moment. The feeling faded after a few minutes, and my day proceeded as normal, but with an echo of this beautiful perception. A remnant image hovered in my periphery, a sentient cube with textures and lines, floating in front of me with a saturated background that merged into its corners, making it seem curved and organic.
Rich births new sonic neurons into the body synthetic
by Darren Bergstein
Isolationism, simultaneously describing our current state of affairs, its literal Webster definition, and the term designated to a subset of 90s electronica arising from the interstice of dark ambient and industrial drone, surely hasn’t dampened Robert Rich’s fertile imagination or rugged work ethic.
Neurogenesis is his second release in that wholly oppressive year designated 2020, and the music’s very vibrancy runs in stark contrast to its earlier, more ambient brother, Offering to the Morning Fog. Remarkably, each album could well act as definitive bookends to last year’s daily, pivoting, emotionally-frought drama. Where Offering found Rich illuminating expansive twilight zones that suggested nothing less than uncharted, uncertain psychogeographies, Neurogenesis sits atop a biospheric chassis upon which astride beautifully attenuated sequencer vectors, subtle phasic shifts, and a surfeit of bright starshine poking through the inky blackness.
There’s a boldness afoot here, a positivistic, kinetic surge where Rich’s many-splendored electronic tonalities shirk off their silicon origami in a rush of fluid, perfumed greens, blossoming reds, expectant yellows. Harkening back to the similarly-infused pyrotechnics of his classic Rainforest but with a decidedly more pronounced, mechanistic sheen, Neurogenesis, as its titling certifies, is the process by which Rich births new sonic neurons into the body synthetic.
After gazing long and hard at the title track’s percolating manifold, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Rich has absorbed one too many post-Tangerine Dream cadences and/or Berlin school graduate degrees. Sequencer music has, however, cut across swathes of Terry Riley-influenced minimalism as much as TD/Schulzian mandates; the synth-sequencer renaissance of the last 10+ years provides ample proof of a sub-genre resonating with fertile ideas, the experimental regimes of Krautrock and post-modernist classical groove finding common ground. And Rich channels those modalities to the max; his facility with rhythm programming and chord architecture is unimpeachable, his sense of harmony equally astute; the serpentine patterning that anchors all of Neurogenesis is the beating heart at its core.
Thanks to his dazzling array of PVC flutes and fluid licks of lapsteel guitar, a track such as the stunning “Connective” truly bridges the divide, Rich pantomiming the moonlit dance of Native Americana against farflung, extraterrestrial foleys reclaimed from Area 51. The offworld atmosphere doesn’t get any thinner on the closing “Erinacea,” its laminated sequencer contrails sketching out a newly-minted rainbow dome music, a cascading rush of overtones achieving a near-meditative state Rich in sound and vision.”