As I listen to Robert Rich’s Filaments for the nth time, and quite gladly so, I catch myself once again closing my eyes and dropping into a state of listening bliss induced by a blend of pinpoint-perfect, classic sequencer lines and fluidly curling washes. The underlying retro feel is a large part of Filaments‘ charm for me, but Rich infuses it with such depth and detail that the overall experience is fantastically new. Still, as “Entangled” gracefully switches from its piano-and-wash opening to sprout fresh electronic vines that weave into a complex matrix, I get that rush that turned me into an e-music fan in the first place. And then Rich slowly dials back the sequencer to give more prominence to the quiet bed beneath it—and does it again at the end of the track; that’s a whole other side of what I enjoy about this music. Or when “Telomere” launches into its light-speed sequencer ripple, having very slowly ramped up its velocity, ushered along by a patient bass riff stepping up the scale. That’s a jolt of pure spacemusic joy, but listen again here as Rich balances out both ends, melting that energetic riff into a soft, cleansing wash to close the journey. My headiest bliss, however, comes from the passages where Rich busts out the pedal steel guitar and unleashes big, yawning chords that slide along the neck. It’s the highlight of “Majorana” for me, a dynamic sound with a Tangerine Dream feel, these blasts of sonic wind howling over tinkling electronics. The guitar returns in a softer guise on “Eulalia,” fulfilling the same role but less aggressively. Here, it sings in harmony with underlying pads as the sequencer metes out the rhythm. “Scintilla” and “Aetherfields” combine to create the more shadowy stretch of the album. “Aetherfields,” in particular, effectively pairs a rough grind of electronic sound with piano. The brighter side wins out by mid-track to become a soft glide of crossing notes, complementary and meditative.
Filaments is one of those right-in-the-wheelhouse albums for me. I have always loved the combination of sharp corners and smooth curves. And with my first electronic loves coming firmly out of the Berlin School, when you tuck some solid guitar work into the mix—well, you’re on your way to being a perfect album for me. There’s certainly no lack of detail here, and headphone listening is most definitely recommended. Rich is a composer who makes every sound matter, and the careful construction of each piece here ensures that your immersion in Filaments will be total. A superb release from one of the masters of ambient and electronic music.
Available from Robert Rich’s web site.