Robert Rich's first solo studio album in three years seductively blends Rich's expressive steel guitar, shimmering organic electronics and yearning flute melodies with influences as diverse as south Indian Karnatic music, pulsing minimalism (Steve Reich, Terry Riley) and introspective jazz (Bill Evans, Miles Davis); while its deconstructed drums and guitar feedback might feel at home with Sigur Ros or Bark Psychosis.
Rich enlists help for this undertaking from a circle of trusted musician friends. The rhythmic scaffolding for the album comes from two very different drummers. Ricky Carter adds his sensitive sparse drumming, fluid with syncopation but complex in meter. These rhythms could be a slow motion homage to Jaki Leibzeit from Can. Post-processing transforms them into rubbery chuffing abstractions. The other rhythmic foundation comes from the Karnatic mrdungam playing of Sakthivel Muruganandhan, which also wanders into Rich''s sonic blender, shifting from slow motion digitized blurs into organic live duets with bansuri master Sunilkumar Sankarapillai.
Lilting in and out of this heady atmosphere of South Indian music and minimalist space jazz, the voice of art-pop virtuoso Emily Bezar adds a feminine intelligence to several pieces, and subtle melodic guitar additions from Haroun Serang augment Rich's soaring lap steel distortions. With acoustic bass from Paul Olguin and string additions from Forrest Fang and Hans Christian, the sonic texture warms to a glowing woody earthiness. Rich's audiophile production and delicate sound design glue the textures together into a seductive and inviting mossy nest. From these disparate elements, Ylang forms a sonic entity unto itself.
A Review by Richard Gürtler:
Robert Rich "Ylang" CD
To make it clear, reviewing Robert Rich is a quite big honor for me, because it was his legendary "Trances/Drones" 2CD that was a turning point for me around 1995 during my musical explorations. Maestro Robert Rich returned with "Ylang" in February of 2010, so almost three years passed since his previous solo album "Illumination", but in the meantime few co-works with Markus Reuter, Ian Boddy and Faryus were released. With "Ylang" Robert delivers some of the most exotic perfumes as he did on masterworks like "Propagation" or especially "Seven Veils". Teamed with no less than 8 other virtuosos on drums (Ricky Carter), mrdungam-percussion instrument from India (Sakthivel Muruganandhan), bansuri (Sunilkumar Sankarapillai), guitar (Haroun Serang), voice (Emily Bezar), violin (Forrest Fang), cello (Hans Christian), upright bass (Paul Olguin)... plus some parrots, Robert Rich exlores another absolutely exciting and exotic territories by melting together various ingredients like ambient, jazz, world music (Carnatic music of India), post rock with his trademarking sounds of flute, lap steel guitar, percussions, piano and electronics. Maybe the Middle East flavour is not that strong as it was presented on "Seven Veils", but the music still sounds very fresh, unique and essential. Each contribution is carefully crafted and detailed, very evocative, expressive and colorful too due to appearing guests. Nine rhythm-charged oriental compositions offer spectacular experience for any world fusion/ambient fan. I think it's impossible to point the most notable pieces here, because each contribution is very impressive and ear catching and even if very varied and rich, the overall mood is very complex. Robert Rich is a sonic innovator always searching for new challenges in his music and "Ylang" is again loaded with filigree musicianship. All wrapped in beautiful 6-panel digipak (designed by John Bergin) with audiophile-quality sound, "Ylang" is a true piece of art for me!!! Big thanks to all involved!!!
Richard Gürtler (Apr 03, 2011, Bratislava, Slovakia)