Robert Rich "Premonitions 1980-1985" 4xLP Box Set
This amazing sonic document was released at the end of April 2014 on German Vinyl-On-Demand label run by Frank Maier, who passionately focuses on releasing various limited vinyl editions, which are mainly taken from various rare tape releases or feature unpublished material. VOD's catalog includes huge list of artists from industrial, noise, avantgarde, ambient... scene and each release with its packaging is a true piece of art. "Premonitions 1980-1985", released as a 4LP Box Set in limited edition of 500 copies with extensive liner notes about each track and including an official hand-numbered certificate card for each customer, is no exception, a pure visual bliss awaits after its unwrapping!!! So no wonder this release was a triggering point for me to finally acquire a turntable shortly after the release of this box set. Shame on me, I didn't get it earlier, but it's always better later than never... To all those who follow my reviews it's no secret that Robert Rich belongs to my top fave artists, so I simply couldn't resist... and now, 15 months later, I am still exploring the magic of these dusted off recordings by this Californian sound venturer.
The first LP opens with "Selene & Ether", a 27-minute piece recorded in the summer of 1980. Well, this must be around the time when Robert Rich turned his 17th birthday!!! The track enigmatically meanders across hauntingly nuanced sceneries, ranging from rather ominously dissonant motions to more tranquilly droning expansive vistas. Wow, this is undoubtedly a jaw-dropping listening experience and exploration, perfectly showcasing the innate artistry of Robert Rich at his young age and confirming his status of a teenage soundsculpting genius. And by the way, as mentioned by Robert, this was his first recording that ever received radio airplay, and no wonder it was on "Music From The Hearts of Space" radioshow in Berkeley. Immerse yourself deeply into these magnificently transporting realms, because the growth rings of the genre are being carved by one of its true pioneers. And the vibe of timeless "Trances/Drones" slowly emanates... Deep respect, Maestro!!! The B side unfolds with "Collage For Low Tones" and as its title indicates, this 18 and half minutes long composition, and another from the summer of 1980, dives into more experimental improvisations driven by PAiA modular and analog delay kit. Rather minimal, mysterious noises, but always weirdly efficient and disturbingly engrossing. Then "Ghosts" awake and encircle the listener with transcendently monochromatic drone scenario.
The second LP fires up with "Clouds 8-15", a 26-plus minutes long piece recorded during 1983. It's a mesmerizingly oscillating dronescape meticulously incorporating throughout some distant flute-like layers, other perplexingly undulating cloud formations and voice-like amorphousness. Although this track remained unpublished, I can imagine it maybe just narrowly missed the selection for "Trances/Drones". Powerfully mesmerizing drone magic is fully unfolded and Robert Rich's insignias slowly invade... "Nocturne", the B side composition with almost the same length, is less intense, more serene with its lushly organic feel. It evolves into a strongly contemplative, trance-like mood, drifting through warmly fantabulous night trails. Even if created during 1983 and maybe more rumbling here and there, this piece easily could fit also to Robert's legendary all-night Sleep concert journey, which originated in January 1982, when performing his first solo concert in the lounge of a Stanford University dormitory. According to the liner notes, the original tape composition of "Nocturne" clocks to 40-minute mark.
Chapter III is dedicated to live performances, documenting two concerts, one in Monterey on September 15th, 1983 and the second in Stanford, March 13th, 1984. Both pieces clock to 25 and half minutes and they originally appeared on "Live" cassette released in 1984 on Swedish Psychout Productions, which later became Multimood Records, and in 1987 on UK based Auricle Music. Both cassettes feature longer versions, about 45 minutes long. "Live Monterey" reveals with the beginning section of this two hour concert, which was performed at an art exhibit opening by painter Todd Friedlander. Euphorically tinkling sequences immediately steal the center stage, while Robert's voice enigmatically cruise above. These are certainly some of the signature sounds that later continuously paved the recording career of this virtuoso. But significant characteristics permeate also during the second half of the piece, which smoothly transmutes into richly biotic dronescape, triumphantly drifting through gracefully emerging and grandiosely tiding panoramas. A spectacular glimpse of slightly lighter and organic-charged version of phenomenal "Hayagriva" arises... More please!!! "Live Stanford" piece is less immense, more hypnotic, counterpointed with crystalline fragments, nebulous field recordings and radiating synthetics. Contemplative tinkles sneak in during the second third and amalgamate with mesmerizing pulses, while guarded by lushly green forest sounds. But then mysteriously hazed Southern Asia fragranced flute work permeates across and adds a brand new, distinguishing extent to this live performance. The closing part returns again to otherworldly mindscaping paths driven by Robert's unmistakable ethereal lap steel alchemy, the wail of a siren cry. A stunningly exuberant live piece, which took place in Robert's dorm room, where he lived during his third and fourth years at the Stanford University.
Nearly 15-minute "Guitar Drone 8-15" from 1983 starts the last LP. As displayed by its title, this composition focuses on Robert's experiments with strumming and brushing the strings. Gorgeously echoed and looped sounds create a deeply evocative atmosphere, which superbly fits this collection. During the second half the piece inconspicuously metamorphoses into more monotonous, yet profoundly droning, fascinatingly elevating and stirringly piercing texture. "CCRMA Voices", 7-plus minutes long track recorded during 1984, while taking the computer music course at Stanford's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, invites the listener into grippingly unfathomable domains, with transcendental voices persistently helixing inside. The B side unveils with "Inner Landscapes Introduction", which clocks over 9 minutes. This piece was a part of the two and half hour live concert in Berkeley, from March 9th, 1985, which was later, in 1988 released through Auricle on cassette as "Inner Landscapes" (90 minutes long). A 74-minute remastered CD version was released on Hypnos in 1999 and then in 2013, a double CD reissue as "Sunyata & Inner Landscapes" followed. However, this LP piece utilizes joyful sequencer-infused insignias gorgeously bridged with warmly embracing cinematics. "Manna" gets over 17-minute mark and delves back in droning tension, reinforced by gossamer cyber-tech bleeps and peculiar warbles, all intermingled with mesmerically ear-tickling sirens and strangely undulating and spiraling sheets. This piece comes from the recording sessions from 1980 with newly acquired Prophet-5.
Even if I am not a really huge vinyl aficionado, this 4LP Box Set is an ultimate, all-inclusive must-have collector's item, authentically transporting each listener into the very early stages of Robert Rich's spectacular recording career. The rest of the story is well-known already!!! To me, it's absolutely thrilling to own this piece of drone ambient history!!! Huge kudos to Robert Rich, Frank Maier and Thomas Heckmann (for mastering and restoration)!!! As mentioned at the beginning, the Box Set is available in limited edition and as far I know, it's still available at Vinyl-On-Demand's store or directly from Robert's Soundscape Productions shop. Trust me, these premonitions are worth every cent!!!
Richard Gürtler (Jul 31, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)