Echo of Small Things
Running time: 1:01:14
Pathways - 9:36
Fences - 4:57
Circle Unwound - 9:00
Passing Terrain - 6:09
Glint in Her Eyes - 6:25
Scent of Night Jasmine - 9:09
Summer Thunder - 4:27
Hollow Rings Longer - 5:19
Weightless Morning - 6:12
Review from Wind and Wire
by Bill Binkelman
Okay, just go ahead and color me "awestruck" by this latest effort from Robert Rich. I thought Calling Down the Sky was a great immersive textural ambient experience (and it is), but Echo of Small Things takes Rich's talent for crafting evocative atmospheric ambient tone poems to an almost dizzying level. The integration of assorted environmental sounds (someone walking, the happy gurgling of a baby, nocturnal creatures, rain, wind and thunder) with constantly evolving layers of assorted electro organic musical elements is so flawless, so perfect, and so involving that I always found myself entirely absorbed in the recording, even when I didn't want to be (such as listening on headphones at my day job!). Besides the usual assortment of Rich musical instrumentation (his wonderfully emotive pedal steel guitar, his always sensual flutes, and various and sundry tones, drones and effects), Rich incorporates new (for him) synthesizer instrumentality, e.g. a TimewARP 2600, which doesn't just add new wrinkles to his trademark ambient compositions, but also introduces a whole new life to the music at times. The gently reverberating retro EM tones in "Circle Unwound" are a perfect example. Non-syncopated pings and pongs bounce back and forth amidst swirling drones and rustling noises and the effect on headphones is almost exhilarating, even though the music itself is low-key.
What makes the biggest impact on this CD, though, is the overwhelming sense of humanity which permeates tracks like the opening "Pathways," the flute-driven "Scent of Night Jasmine" which rises like sultry incense, and the sparse beauty of "Hollow Rings Longer," which echoes the best of Rich's past work, e.g. Gaudi and Rainforest. I don't know why I have this strong evocation of the man behind the music, since the music is so obviously ambient in nature and (while not inaccessible) and is mostly comprised of snippets of melody or tunefulness, atmospheric textures, occasional percussion, and environmental sounds, but I do. Seldom do I "sense" the musician behind the recording as strongly as I do here. Maybe part of what I feel is the result of this album being a collaboration of sorts between Rich and photographer David Agasi (whose beautiful photos adorn the liner notes). The artist describes the aim of the music and likewise Agasi's images thusly (from the liner notes): "Our culture helps determine for us what we think is important and what we think is trivial, what is large and what is small. Yet meaning often waits at the periphery. Life happens in the gaps, in the soft-hued colors of the mundane, the accidental: a casual smile, the cycle of seasons, the view from a window, growing a garden, the smells and fabrics of home."
That's an excellent description of the emotional resonance of this amazing CD. Echo of Small Things surely ranks near the top (maybe even at the top?) of this artist's already considerable discography. Rich was obviously inspired to great heights by Agasi's photos (or, who knows, maybe it was the other way around?). Whatever the raison d'etre for this album, fans of moody yet warm, atmospheric yet intimate, and personal yet universal music should seek out this album immediately. In a year that has seen an abundance of good music so far, Echo of Small Things rises above many of these not through any failing of the others but because of the keen ear and sensitive talents of Robert Rich. The CD merits my highest and most unqualified recommendation.
Here's another review by Matt Howarth
ROBERT RICH: Echo of Small Things
This CD from 2005 features 61 minutes of stately ambience. The music by Rich is inspired by a series of photographs by David Agasi.
Ethereal atmospherics become the medium for deeper tonalities and sweetly tingling textures. Phosphorescent instances sparkle throughout this music, like glimpses of a more tranquil dimension where everything radiates optimistic effervescence. These tiny epiphanies grow larger with each passing pulsation, filling the mind with burgeoning potential.
Elongated steel guitar notes slide and waft on the bubbling breeze. Fields of spectral flutes generate a hazy distance. Ponderous tones descend like heavy clouds, losing their grim demeanor by the time they surround the audience. Rainfall and sedate tubular bells engage in a sonic tryst.
Remaining gentle, this tuneage achieves an intensity of purity that releases the contemplative floodgates of the listener, opening the path to all kinds of opportunities.
Rich has a way of imbuing his minimal soundscapes with an organic quality that generates more than a subtle pipeline right into the listener's soul. This tuneage flows like fragile air, but carries distinct sonic scents that convey vibrant emotion. Combined with Agasi's pictures, the subtle atmospherics adopt distinct terminology.
This release is available in two editions: a deluxe signed-and-numbered version limited to 129 copies, and one where the pictures are printed in a conventional insert booklet.