Recorded in my bedroom during summer of 1983, and in my college dormitory later that Autumn, I released both Trances and Drones cassettes at the same time in early summer 1984. I intended Trances to be the more active one, and Drones to be the slower, deeper one. I printed 500 of each title, and it took me over a decade to sell out of them.
Cave Paintings (24 min)
Hayagriva (26 min)
Seascape (30 min)
Wheel of Earth (28 min)
In the early 1990s, a distributor of audiophile and electronic music named David Hodgson approached me about my old cassettes Trances and Drones, wondering if I had an interest in releasing them on CD. A friend of his in Australia named Roger Richards was starting a new label called Extreme, and David was connecting him with interesting artists. I accepted the offer and spent several months making new digital transfers of the analog reels, and making some improvements with reverb and EQ. Because of the extra duration that CDs afforded, I decided to include the title track to my first album “Sunyata”; in part because I thought it fit well with Trances/Drones, and also because if I did release “Sunyata” again, it would be too long to fit on CD.
This 1994 printing on Extreme was the first CD version of “Trances & Drones” together, and reached a wide and diverse audience because of the unusual breadth of styles that Extreme came to represent. Unfortunately, Roger Richards developed a reputation for failing to pay royalties. After it became clear that his finances were unsustainable, I pulled my title from his catalog and received the remaining inventory to sell off myself over the next few years. By the late 1990s, I had arranged a new printing of the dual CD with Release/Relapse. A few years later, they decided to stop selling ambient music and focus on their more profitable grind core and metal releases. So they gave me back my title and I have a few of those remaining CDs still for sale.
A third CD pressing came out in 2013 on a deluxe edition from Hypnos. That edition is now sold out.
Listeners present for Robert Rich’s earliest music, going back to his time at Stanford, may recall the early 80s cassette releases of Trances and Drones as separate albums. Most of us became familiar with Trances/Drones as a unified ambient masterwork on double CD, first released on the Extreme label in 1994, then reissued by Release/Relapse in 2000.
As an enthusiast of ambient and drone music, before I started Hypnos recordings in 1996, I remember Trances & Drones as one of the most significant influences on my evolving sense of what ambient music could be: psychologically powerful; not just relaxing but transporting; a way of summoning dreamlike or visionary states while awake.
I remember lying in darkness, listening to a rotation of favorite CDs that included Trances/Drones. This recording seemed to convey something sacred or otherworldly, well beyond the detached “spacey” quality to which most such music aspires. This powerful effect derives from Robert’s mingling of organic “earthy” sounds, such as flute, guitar and voice, along with spacious drifting textures from electronic sources.
My own philosophies regarding the aesthetics of atmospheric music formed to the backdrop of this soundtrack. Hypnos could not exist without that influence.
– Mike Griffin, May 2013
Tracks 1,2,4,5 © 1983 by Robert Rich
Track 3 © 1981 by Robert Rich
“Cave Paintings” and “Hayagriva” originally released in 1983 on Trances. “Seascape” and “Wheel of Earth” originally released in 1983 on Drones.
“Sunyata (Emptiness)” originally released in 1981 on Sunyata.
All music composed, performed, produced and recorded by Robert Rich, except “Sunyata (Emptiness)” co-produced and recorded by Ron MacLeod at Studio M in Palo Alto. All tracks remasterd by Robert Rich at Soundscape, Mountain View, in 1993. Remastering assistance by Bob Olhsson.
Instruments: Sequential Prophet-5, lap steel guitar, bamboo flute, homemade modular synthesizer.
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Sunyata (Emptiness) 22:50
Wheel of Earth 27:58
Cave Paintings 23:54