Tactile Ground – Spotted Peccary Music SP036
Ambient electronic music is basically extended odd things to listen to. All other music is just too busy, this is something else. Some piano zephyr sounds, some flute breezes. Also, there are lots of effects that make me think of huge caves, some of which contain deep water, plus the possibility of perceiving sounds from the remote past. There is no beat or percussion, there are the sounds of water falling and sound reflected on swelling ocean shores. This is a huge symphonic experience. One hour, fifty-six minutes and thirty-two seconds. A double CD is necessary to contain this. There are song titles, but it quietly flows continuously as one big event. The song tracks make it handy to lift out into smaller segments.
Robert Rich’ Tactile Ground
What you will hear on…
…Tactile Ground are ambient electronic soundscape explorations. There are some sonic events that seem to take place in huge caverns, some soundscapes with falling water, a vast avian jungle, and remotely sensing the sounds of distant alien worlds. Robert Rich does not disappoint, this is one continuous journey through strange territory, restful and as suitable for dreaming as it is for meditative listening and spelunking.
Rich has himself defined whole genres of music: ambient, dark-ambient, tribal, and trance, so of course his music remains hard to categorize. Rich has performed in caves, cathedrals, planetaria, art galleries and concert halls throughout Europe and North America. His all-night Sleep Concerts, first performed in 1982, became legendary in the San Francisco area. Rich’s solo albums include Tactile Ground, Vestiges, What We Left Behind, Filaments, Nest, The Biode, Ylang, Medicine Box and Echo of Small Things.
Can we find a tactile ground, an animal surface upon which to calibrate our humanity?
This question posed in the notes for Tactile Ground frames a meditation on life and existence, does the ability to react and respond to sounds and textures significantly distinguish humans from other life forms?
Robert Rich has created…
…a glorious thoughtful deep listening experience. The feeling to me is like listening to the waterfront in fog during the wee hours of the night. The sound reflects off of the restless swelling surface of the darkest water. Also, the surface of the water acts as an echo chamber constantly rising and falling, which changes the perception of the sound’s reverberating reflections. Is the reflection merely an apparition, or are these my private projections of meaning on otherwise inanimate objects? There are what sounds to me like hollow metal buoys rocking in the swells off in the darkness. And there are flutes in the breeze, and in other places there is a graceful slow piano. There are lots of different birds. Much sounds to me like it takes place in huge deep caves and there is wind, also echo (and other sustain-enhancing atmospheric processing effects).
Tactile Ground was recorded at Soundscape, in Mountain View California, using Synthesis Technology, Old Crow, STG, L-1, Intellijel, Sequential PX & P12, Haken Continuum, LeafAudio Soundbox, lap steel, flutes, piano, and of course, odds & ends.
There are two discs: Location and Dislocation.
Disc one: Location
The first sounds I would…
…describe as falling water, with slow piano notes, lush synthetic strings, and some timeless bird calls, a tapestry of textures that take their time and eventually slowly fade into a bird jungle.
“The Sentience of Touch” (09:02) seems to ask the question, does perception alone not prove that a living creature is self-aware? The bird jungle morphs into synthesizer textures and wind, plus a light touch of the falling water. “Eroding Columns” (07:58) suggests a discovery of ruins in the dark wilderness. The sound continuously flows, synth textures, echoes, piano, recordings of something moving around, slow and easy.
“Shrouded Lattice” (09:19) continues the exploration of an architecture long abandoned. The synth textures, the echo, and the ghostly piano continue. Also, there are some different things moving around. Is someone talking? The words are lost. But there is a sense of the way just the sound of voices carry through any manner of distance, with mostly electronic strings, rising and falling, slow and easy.
“A Skein for Skin” (09:12)
Eventually there is a sound resembling to me like something bobbing on the mostly calm surface of the ocean, metal buoys. Skein can mean: a length of yarn, a tangled situation, also a flying flock in a “V” formation. Take your pick. I can hear distant sea birds and some kind of percussive motion in the cave, flutes in the distance, more sea birds, very quiet behind the metal buoys ringing and percussing. Now the birds sound more like whales.
“The Abiding Wheel” (07:04). Time goes by, new variations are heard. “Language of Breezes” (14:29). More metal buoys ringing and percussing. They sound isolated in the watery void. Small light synthesizer drones are in the distance. Strings bring the flute breezes, keyboards by moonlight. The breezes that speak sound like they are in a huge open area so there is lots of expansive subtlety, and the metal buoys are long gone now. The piano is so light it might be in the distance, but you can hear the reverberation in close detail, it is timeless.
Disc two: Dislocation
Whales and breezes building…
…into a synthesizer-based woodwind fog orchestra, slow and dreamy. “Radiant Groundlines” (07:46) is followed by “Haptic Incursions” (09:14). Haptic means pertaining to touch and the mood slightly shifts to sparse twilight, with birds, with cautious percussive movement, and with slow drones. All in the big cave with deep water.
“Glassmaker’s Sand” (05:02) Behold the big cave with deep water. A slow piano emerges, the reverberations are shimmering, there is not a true melody of lyrical notes. Distant echoes of the lost sound of people talking, the birds are back too. Old and deteriorating, “Senescent Architecture” (04:29), whistling in the dark, odd recorded motion that sounds to me as if it we are hearing the sampled motion recordings played back inside a huge damp cathedral. Time goes by slowly and elegantly. The huge damp cathedral has more wind flowing through it, with the echoes of the deep-water cave.
“Heat Island Effect” (07:19)…
…with no birds. The atmosphere of cathedrals and deep water continues. “Dominion of Microns” (04:05) suggests synthesizer keyboards making the sound of winds, and some particulate motion undulates. “Tentative Unfolding” (05:46) a strange new whistling emerges from the particulate motion undulation. Things elongate. A flute bends time. Time bends for what seems like a short while.
“Elevations” (07:01) now lightly step onto a synthesizer elevator with fairly large wind chimes, going up into celestial territory. no hurry, never any hurry, but the altitude is getting extreme. The elevator falls away and we just keep going up. “Meridian Respiration” (08:46) The buoys bob in the swelling deep waters and the ancient breath of flutes soar overhead in the darkness as we bring it on home to ponder, or just dwell inside of from time to time.
Written by Robin B. James, April 25th, 2019