- Sunyata & Inner Landscapes - 2CD re-issue
Three decades after the release of Rich's early works "Sunyata" (1982) and "Inner Landscapes" (1985), we created an archival edition with the help of Mike Griffin at Hypnos, who sponsored the first CD re-issues of these albums back in the late 1990s. After those pressings sold out, we decided to wait before bringing them back, assuming that the interest in physical media might be diminishing in favor of downloads. As it happens, people still express interest in getting a beautiful artistic package holding music that somehow stays relevant after all these years.
Notes on Sunyata & Inner Landscapes
by Mike Griffin
Robert Rich and I first discussed the possibility of a CD version of Robert’s out of print cassette release Inner Landscapes in 1998. Hypnos was brand new, having just released a few CDs by relative unknowns, while Robert’s profile within the genre of ambient music was ascendant. He had progressed from self-releasing cassettes while still in college in the early 1980s, to putting out albums on established import labels like Multimood and Auricle, but it was the 1989 release of Rainforest on San Francisco’s Hearts of Space label (which grew out of Stephen Hill’s syndicated radio show of the same name) which first introduced Robert to a much wider audience. This growth continued through the 90s with a series of albums on both Hearts of Space and its ambient-focused sub-label, Fathom.
Somehow I convinced Robert that my new, barely-established label was up to the task of doing justice to Inner Landscapes as a CD reissue. My recollection is that Robert had been in touch with Barry Craig (A Produce), with whom I was already collaborating on what would become Altara. Barry must have recommended Hypnos.
Conventional wisdom goes that a new venture, such as Hypnos was at that time, can benefit from association with more established partners. The alliance grants instant credibility to the upstart. Certainly Hypnos benefitted in such a way from our partnership, and gained more from it than did Robert. We went on to work together on Humidity, a 3-disc release of live recordings, and Somnium, a DVD format audio recording which even now remains noteworthy for its 7 hours duration, used to capture the experience of Robert’s renowned “sleep concerts.”
Together we also ventured back all the way to 1981, and Sunyata. Robert created this recording at the beginning of his career, while still in his teens. As with Inner Landscapes, this was a cassette release which had lapsed out of print without ever having been released on CD. Robert was pleased to have these early, virtually “lost” recordings available for the first time on
digital disc, and again Hypnos benefitted by association with one of the great artists and established names in our genre.
In the world of independently released music, it’s understood that reissues don’t sell nearly as well as new recordings, but with an artist of the stature of Robert Rich, even the oldest and more obscure items in his recorded history are viable CD releases. This is due partly to Robert’s high standing, especially back in the 1990s when all the record stores (remember those?) had a Robert Rich section, but the bigger reason is that the works were created from the very beginning with intelligence, a rich creative dynamism, and utmost craftsmanship.
Unlike many solo artists in our genre, Robert continues to put significant time and effort into touring throughout the USA and occasionally overseas, remaining in touch with listeners, music reviewers, DJs, and fellow recording artists. His visually dynamic performances, which feature Robert with his modular synthesizers, wood flutes, lap steel guitars and other various electronics, supplemented by projected abstract video, make for one of the most worthwhile live tickets in a music scene where live performances, when they happen at all, are too often pre-recorded affairs.
From a foundation of college dorm room experiments, sleep concerts, and early recordings, forward over three decades into his recording and performing career, Robert Rich sustains the authentic, idea-driven visionary output of an artist. He gives listeners provocative sounds, visuals and concepts. Because of all this, he has one of the largest and most devoted fan bases in our genre.
Going all the way back to the 1980s and these initially-obscure cassette releases, which lapsed out of print, but never faded into obscurity, we’re proud to revisit these early moments, to give them new life, and make them available yet again, in another new format.
-Mike Griffin, January 2013