A LOOK AT
Richard Tyler: Fathoms (CD, 73:45); rtcd-99582, 1999 Blue Tractors Records Blue Tractor Records, London E-Mail: email@example.com Cyberhome: http://www.richardtylermusic.com Quick thoughts: I am quite impressed with the sensitivities and skills of Richard Tyler when it comes to successfully putting together subtle tones, drones, and effects to create a theme of peace and moving the soul's waters towards The Calm. His ambient compositions are strongly recommended. Expect an Old School feel, the way electronic music artists did things 25 years ago. Tyler does employ some 21st century tools but I kept feeling like I had a classic reissue playing. Nice job Richard. And now the review . . . Fathoms is of course a nautical unit of depth measurement. It is an appropriate moniker for this release. Four movements; "Fathoms" 21:38, "Deep Blue Circle" 20:41, "Shiny Stones On The Bottom" 16:55, and "Surface Becomes Earth" 14:28, each transport the listener from shoreline to the depths back up for air, then on to the submarine trenches, past unseen aquatic dimensions, and finally back up for air, to rest in sunlight and surf. Tyler nods his recording head to Danna and Clément in using environmental sounds to set the scene. After surf and intermittent gull we descend beneath the surface to drift down on Peter Michael Hamel-ish or Klaus Schulze-ian, olde school, church organ-ish, endless dronings, Leslie-effected, warped, treated and done so well. Low-end, huge synth tones persist, Mid-range, Roach-like chimed tones randomly occur circa Structures from Silence's "Quiet Friend". This weave of sound is subdued, low-key, looped, erratic but restful in its effect, fade in to more surf sounds then another "descent" Strange echoes come and go, wordless vox samples, (Spectrasonic's Symphony of Voices), create a sense of mermaids calling, leading the way to the depths. That rapping, a hollow echo depicts sound waves distorted by liquid, patterns of the above are random, relaxing as usual with Tyler, holding your attention for what may come next. Deep drones hold fast throughout, the sense of drifting down, floating into immense voids prevalent gestalt here. Whooshing sounds come late in the track, a mystery unfolding? But no, we are then carried to next track with no answers or clues. A tubular, hollowed-out, drone-tone fades in. That tunnel-driven synth form oscillates slowly, descending into lower octaves. Background drones remain, grouped in patterns that hold pretty constant. Slight melodic pattern is followed by mid-range synths. A denser weave of multi-tracked dronings is present here. Most tone patterns descend with very little upper register wanderings. This automatically soothes and relaxes the brain, neurons firing less, serotonin levels creating mind-ease. A warbling, wave-like, water-effect distortion is evident here in drifting tones. Bubblings and odd echoes presage whale songs that are done better than most other cetacean recordings I have heard. It is tasteful, subdued, distant, and like being there within 100 feet of them versus standing near an aquarium view-tank with loud-speakers. Tyler achieves a dreamy aquatic realism. Whale songs soon pass and a short drone space similar to track intro becomes the outro. Fade out to final track. As if it is now time to resurface wordless vox samples, (Spectrasonic's Symphony of Voices), again create a sense of mermaids saying farewell, you are leaving the depths. Sound forms used in track one return as if one is passing back through realms formerly traveled. The Peter Michael Hamel-ish keyboards come awarbling and expertly mutated by Tyler for the ascent. Mermaid vox comes and goes in that erratic pattern used so effectively earlier. Organ synths fade, ethereal voices continue to fade-out and the surf with gull cries signals journey's end. Fade out all sound. Zzzzzzzzzzzz. ~ John W. Patterson
Richard Tyler: Eepra Nahf (CD, 50:00); rtcd-980022, 1998 Blue Tractors Records Blue Tractor Records, London E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cyberhome: http://www.richardtylermusic.com In Tyler’s “Ambient Music for Deep Relaxation and Meditation” series, Eephra Nahf is yet another offering. The 20:00 opening title track opens the way to visionary spaces with a style sounding incredibly similar to Don Slepian’s “Sonic Perfume” from a now deleted release on the defunct Audion Label. It is as if Slepian said, “Sure Richard, here’s the original tapes, tweak ‘em, whatever, change this and that and you can use it.” I guess it could be considered a very well done tribute to Slepian. It sounds as if it was done on the original 80s equipment. Anyway, it came about, it is well done and yes, very relaxing. The next track, “The Trapeze Artist”, 10:00, never really set me at ease. Its ringing, resonant, feedback-ready, whistling tonalities were painful if the volume was set too high. Random noise, warped, phased, flange mid-ranges and low-end drones add to the dense mosaic. Imagine a 6-foot tall tuning fork vibrating in a very small cubicle with you. Not completely calming but more psyche overload, inducing erasure of thought processes. Next track please – whew. “Connection to Breathing”, 20:00, ahh yes, this is better. Think of Halpern, Budd, Eno, Lynch, or Badarou idea, the crystal clear, light-filled, minimalistic tones of a sparsely tinkled keyboard. Plenty of reverb and sustain here. Occasional odd animal calls echo past in adjacent soundfields. A Whale? No. A Loon? Perhaps. An alien leather- winged bat-bird? I dunno. Whatever it is, it likes cruising around in your head, calling randomly. It’s a nice touch to aid in avoiding listener boredom. ( I fear however that someone has surely done this same routine before on some holistic, New Agey 80s binge of releases.) Tyler repeats, loops, improvs on keys scantly and briefly. Tyler saunters in a directionless path to nowhere and not too fast either. It is one-dimensional, not challenging the listener to listen. No flash here. More of this, some more of that, then final echoes of the crypto-critter’s cries, fade-out into a deep woods serenade of insecta and amphibia and that “loon” that leads all the night denizens into silence . . . ~ John W. Patterson
THREE REVIEWS IN ONE!Music of Richard Tyler Drawings in the Room (1999) Source and Tone (1999) Compositions and Soundpictures (1998) Blue Tractor Records, London Cyberhome: http://www.richardtylermusic.com/ E-Mail: email@example.com
This British ambient composer is new to me, but his music is familiar enough. It's ambient as ambient was originally meant to be: a kind of audible incense that is pure sound, devoid of content or progression, for accompanying other actions (or non-actions). These compositions are just what they are advertised as: "ambient music for deep relaxation and meditation."
Drawings in the Room has four longish pieces of electronic music, much in the style of "classic" Brian Eno but without Eno's sentimentality. Each piece explores a single idea, sometimes a very simple one, without much development; what you hear at the beginning is what you will hear throughout. His choice of harmonies, notes, and sound-textures is clear and pleasant, rather than droning, all of it drifting in the vast sea of reverb which I regard as essential for ambient music. Sometimes you will hear a touch of percussion or some distant bells and gongs. This album does its relaxing job; don't drive or operate heavy machinery while listening to it. Source and Tone consists of two fairly long (about 30 minutes each) pieces, both of them based on the "singing bowls," gongs, and metallic instruments of the Far East. The first piece, "Mountain Cave Meditation," evokes a sonic image of that Himalayan mountain cave where the levitating lama or mysterious guru hides out, complete with Tibetan bells, water drips, wind chimes and whooshes of synthesized wind. Fortunately, I don't have to actually feel the freezing wet mountain chill. The second piece, "Overtone Meditation," is somewhat "darker," with deep gong and bell noises and metallic drones from the "singing bowls." After about 15 minutes of this, I didn't feel relaxed any more, but slightly annoyed by all those long clangs.
Compositions and Soundpictures was a bit of a surprise after the other ambient albums. This has many more pieces on it, and each one, while basically remaining in the ambient field, is quite different. The pieces in this album are mostly short observations and variations on ambient themes and styles. There is the homage to Brian Eno ("First Reading of the Book,"), a very close, and enjoyable, homage to Vangelis ("Indians and the Ocean Floor"), and a tribute to Mychael Danna ("Skating in Figure Eights"). In between these contemplative ambient pieces are cuts of retro-electronica using tape loops, modified voices, and other sonic artifacts of the fifties. There is a general sense of wry but chilly irony about these pieces; he knows he's playing with "celebrity" styles as well as electronic music history. Some of them are quite moving, in a sort of slow, aquatic way. Others are just on the border of being funny, like track 12, "Traveling with Bees." Like his American counterpart "A Produce," Tyler in this album explores mini-worlds in a few minutes, using a deliberately limited palette. Drawings in the Room rating: 5 Source and Tone rating: 6 Compositions and Soundpictures rating: 8
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