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I dreamt of the earth after us,
As mountains erode and time helps the cities crumble.
So easy to think that the earth revolves around us,
That after us, the planet stops.
We who can change the weather.
When we make our world so inhospitable we can’t survive,
Life crawls blindly forward,
Consciousness revives, organisms organize.
Cells of the earth join together to create new minds.
Small lives build new worlds,
Cast a net across the surface and through layers below,
Constant construction, destruction, erosion, rebuilding.
After us, on a scaffolding of rust and ashes, salt and sand,
Digesting through it, stumbling numbly,
Vagabond life picks through the detritus and continues unconcerned.
Profligate Earth pays no mind to the foibles of her creation.
She scatters choices for those who can still choose.
A recurring dream of the earth long after we are gone, a flight on black-feathered wings to overlook what could have been, lush and thriving in our absence.
August 9, 2016
Robert Rich wants you to understand that long after all the people are gone, long after we’ve wreaked our havoc on the planet and faded from memory, the planet’s just going to keep going about its business. On What We Left Behind, he takes us on a sonic travelogue to that place, lush and verdant and pulsing with life. With the scene-setting burst of thunder and squawk of bird sounds that introduce “Profligate Earth,” Rich jumps right into giving this release an organic, primal tone. Percussion forms the heartbeat of the new ecosystem that thrives beautifully in this place, as flute and synth tones breathe and sing. He proceeds to produce smooth, flowing order out of the initial chaos, and gives us the space to look around. (And me, I like what I see.) On “Raku,” things darken up a touch as we begin to explore, pushing into the overgrown scene. If it feels a bit ominous – and believe me, it does – it’s the feeling of being a stranger in a strange land, everything within sight weird and wonderful and worrisome all at once, your head ringing with What is this place? and What happened here? The flute takes a strong lead on this track, laying down the narrative. It strikes me that What We Left Behind is very much a flute album. In among all his complex, deep electronics, it’s sometimes easy to forget that Rich is an accomplished flute player. These curling, vivacious lines and swaying, humid tones definitely solidify that understanding. If you like flute, there’s plenty here to dig on. “Transpirations,” for example, brings the flute work right to the front, soaring over serpentine synth stretches and a mildly unnerving manipulated vocal sample of (what sounds like) a child’s laughter. This one briefly takes a strong tribal turn as Rich drops in some heavy drumming–but he never lets it overpower the flute. It appears, adds texture and drama, then slides back. Balance is everything here, as is the art of creating well-painted canvases of sonic impressions. The clatter of hollow chimes running through “Voices of Rust” perfectly conveys the image of tattered pieces of our industrial detritus hanging windblown and forgotten in this revived world, adding their voice to the world of wild sounds around us. “Corvid Collections” packs much the same feel as it darkly plods forth, eerie flute tones matched up with clanging, gong-like metallic backdrops and a tribal pulse on thick drum sounds. This feels like a forbidden place, and we are not entirely welcome here. Loneliness pervades the minimal drone of “After Us,” where small sounds skitter beneath our feet. Rich just hangs long notes out there like the realization of what we’ve done. The title track, which follows, is a full, cinematic piece, a vista from a high vantage point, and between the bold melodic lines and the pulsing percussion, we get a sense of the scene’s reclaimed majesty. This piece swells and seems to keep gaining strength. On top of that, from a beat standpoint it’s a little catchy. (Perhaps it will only be me who head-bobs along with it, but I doubt it.) In the closing track, “Meeting Face to Face,” Rich pulls out one final surprise: a guitar. Its crisp, homey feel shines amid floating pads and angelic vocals.
When I noted on my Facebook page that I was listening to this for review, a commenter referred to it as “a modern classic.” I have to agree. The hours that I have spent looping this over and over have been time very well spent. There is a full, real, and honest environment created here. There are vistas and glimpses, color and texture, and emotion to spare. It winds through its dark places so that when the light shines on this reclaimed world. everything is brighter, more beautiful, and very, very alive. A stunning album from one of the true masters of the genre, this is a must-own release that’s going to hit every “Best Of” list.
released May 1, 2016
Recorded 2014-2016 by Robert Rich at Soundscape, Mountain View CA.
Mixed and mastered by Robert Rich at Soundscape in 2016.
Sonic additions by Forrest Fang (2016) on #8 and #9.
Abstractions of Chari Chuang on #1.
All crows unofficially non-union and paid peanuts.
Instruments: prepared piano, Haken Continuum, PVC flutes, lap steel guitar, percussion, DSI Prophet 12 and 6, Korg Wavestation and M3, eowave Resonator, MOTM and Eurorack modulars.
Thanks for assistance from Paul Schreiber, Dave Smith Instruments, Ed & Lipoid at Haken, Chuck at Noise Bug, Old Crow, Andrew at 2C, Izotope, STG, Audio Damage and so many others, plus of course Dixie and all of you who listen.
Cover art by Romanie Sanchez (www.romanie.net)
“WhaleBird” (©2014) “Flower in my Desert” (©2011) “Autoflora” (©2011)
Design and Layout by John Bergin
“As unpredictable as he is prolific, multi-instrumentalist/composer Robert Rich defies expectations on a stunning new release that combines field recordings, acoustic instruments (PVC flutes, percussion), lap steel guitar, and electronics. The result is a luscious, organic mix where textures and melodies float naturally in and out of the foreground, often to the accompaniment of irregular rhythms that decorate time as raindrops do, suggesting patterns that are always slightly out of reach.” Gino Robair, Electronic Musician
16 months after “Filaments”, a spectacular odyssey through fascinating space expanses, one of the undisputable ambient innovators returns with another jewel. On “What We Left Behind” CD, as displayed by its title, Robert Rich transforms his dreams about the Mother Earth when the humankind is gone, with a crow as a spirit guide, into an exquisitely sophisticated soundsculptures, showcasing his continuous musical virtuosity. Out since May 2016 on Robert’s Soundscape Productions, the CD comes, as usual, in a really gorgeous 6-panel digipak masterly designed by a frequent collaborator John Bergin exhibiting stunning cover art by Ibizan painter Romanie Sanchez, who has already contributed her amazing art to two collaborative releases by Alio Die & Paralled Worlds “Circo Divino” and “Elusive Metaphor”. So with such visual power it’s quite obvious the first big points are awarded already, but this is nothing new when it goes to Robert Rich’s CDs. Nowadays, when many physical items are released in reduced quality, we must be really grateful for such consistent artful bliss. Bravo, Romanie, John & Robert!!!
“Profligate Earth” unfolds with authentic trademarking insignias, it simply can’t be anyone else but Robert Rich! Filigree organic sounds masterfully amalgamate with nebulous blankets and intangibly subtle rhythm motifs, while guarded by abstractions of Chari Chuang’s voice (remember Chari Chuang’s virtuosic performance on “Medicine Box”?). A very pleasant intro with top-notch sound quality again delivered! Signature flute work returns (after absence on “Filaments” album) and announces “Raku” and commingles with gentle primordial rumblings, gossamer tribal patterns and captivating biotic quietudes. Richly enigmatic composition! “Voice Of Rust” keeps on its primal path, when merging yearning flute with languishingly rumbling artifacts. “Soft Rains Fall” excels with tremendous lap steel guitar artistry, when melting earmarking ethereal choir nuances with balmy beats, while soothing atmospheric blankets are riding atop. This is Robert Rich at the very top of his immersing soundmagic!!! Shorter “Rhizome” dwells in perplexingly primordial terrains. “Transpiration” is awakened by weirdly enrapturing sound fragments of child-like voice, but soon the center stage is stolen by utterly evocative flute, a truly genuine hallmark, which is meticulously bridged with monochromatic drone, phantasmal helixes and magnetizing tribal drumming. Over 5 minutes of pure aural ecstasy awaits here, a Hall of Fame track!!! The next composition, “Corvid Collections”, melts mysterious flute motifs, subterranean drum patterns and contemplative tinkles. “Aerial On Warm Seas”, with 9:08 the longest piece on the album, is driven by magnificently melancholic lap steel cries, which later metamorphose into powerfully intense, nearly transcendental stratums and then evanescing through bizarrely colored phantasmagoric sceneries back to weeping loneliness. This is a fully rewarding venture into unmistakable sonic domains demonstrating uniquely distinctive artistry of its sole protagonist. Hats off to you, Robert!!! “Never Hunger” reveals with deep drumming, longing flute and grieving lap steel guitar. Credited on last two tracks is Robert’s Californian kindred spirit Forrest Fang for used abstractions of his performance on cümbüş (a Turkish stringed instrument). “After Us” dives into unfathomable depths with its static drone, distant hums and diaphanously rustling embellishments. 6-minute title track “What We Left Behind” incorporates pulsing laid-back rhythms coupled with calmly sweeping expansive washes and strikingly poignant lap steel vistas. Beauty!!! “Meeting Face To Face” starts serenely with slightly exotic fragranced strings, which conjugate with panoptic angelic lap steel choirs and warmly cinematic horizons. A truly gorgeous conclusion!
Robert Rich is known for his perfection and consistency and “What We Left Behind” is a perfect example of his superiorly creative musicianship. A quite colorful 62-minute recording, which showcases all essential insignias of this Californian. They are fully blossoming and wealthily infused by 3 and a half decades of his stellar recording career. Thank you, Maestro!!! “What We Left Behind” is another true piece of art by Robert Rich, which will delight your eyes and ears!!! And by the way, since yesterday the newest CD by Robert Rich entitled “Vestiges” is available for order. A new album after 7 months? Wow, that’s a quite unusual for this sonic explorer. I can’t wait!!!
Richard Gürtler (Nov 18, 2016, Bratislava, Slovakia)
My personal favorite review so far, from a new listener named Day Host-Jablonski:
“Well. What We Left Behind is astonishing. I’d like to picnic on those rusted shores, under those groaning cloudbanks. I’d gladly let the passing three-eyed ravens have my sandwiches, and probably wouldn’t even mind being covered by the sentient mosses. I feel like I’ve received a new perspective on my death and decomposition visions, the point of view of the composters.”
Profligate Earth 6:22
Voice of Rust 5:41
Soft Rains Fall 4:17
Corvid Collections 6:32
Aerial on Warm Seas 9:08
Never Hunger 3:22
After Us 3:02
What We Left Behind 6:01
Meeting Face to Face 5:29
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