Ian Boddy / Robert Rich

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React Review

by Jo-Ann Greene

The Din label has always had a predilection for the one-word album title, the choices variously evocative, vivid, ambiguous, and ofttimes loaded with layers of meaning. And so for this set, the third collaboration between ambient god Robert Rich and Din label head, synth-sampler supremo Ian Boddy, the title chosen was React. The title may refer to the audience's, and by extension the listeners' response, as the set was recorded live in Philadelphia in 2007, at the Star's End 30th Anniversary Celebration Concert. It may be a motif for the pair's working relationship, for isn't collaboration by definition a series of reactions between two partners that help refine and draw out a shared vision? In a deeper sense, it may be a reference to the scientific theory that states for every action there is an equal reaction, thus even at a molecular level our very beings are determined by our interaction with the world around us. React, the album, encompasses all these shades of meaning, beginning with Boddy's intricate rhythmic patterns, across the atmospheric swirls of synths he develops, and into dense atmospheres and melody lines that constantly interplay with Rich's instruments, themselves heard through the prism of effects and modulations. The pair's last set, Lithoscope was a vast, aural journey through Earth's long history. Its title track is re-created here, as are two pieces -- "Ice Fields" and "Edge of Nowhere" from their first album, Outpost. It's intriguing to hear them in a new context and, in the case of the latter two tracks, in quite different forms. At the core, though, it's the various interactions that define React, best illustrated on "AxD," with its intricate bubbling rhythm and cathedral like synths giving way to computerized blips until crushed by the weight of the earth, and spun out into the dark reaches of outer space. Here man and machine combine then separate, humanities' dreams are brought to life, the forces of nature are on full display, before man's hubris disintegrates before the vastness of the universe. Numerous textures and atmospheres are explored throughout the set, from the light and sunny shades of "Sojourn" to the dark swirls of oceanic space conjured forth on "Depth Charge." The awe-inspiring "Slow Hand" is an exercise in drama as the tension builds and its pace quickens. Here Rich's haunting guitar reaches almost operatic proportions, before gliding on aural wings towards the Eastern skies. Birds seem to twitter on "Sojourn," while dappled light shines down on "Lithoscope." On the title track, the duo come closest to the dancefloor, the rhythms bubbling and roiling, Rich's flute trilling a trail of delight, while the evocative synths sweep below. All told it's a wonderfully complex performance that leaves listeners much to mull over on many levels. The album is filled with dramatic moments, ambient bliss, mysterious visions, unsettling rhythms, musical wonder, and all enveloped in intricately woven musical textures and moods. Sublime.

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