Richard Lainhart

Ten Thousand Shades of Blue

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Released in 2001, Ten Thousand Shades of Blue is a two-CD retrospective of Richard Lainhart's sound art from the 1970s and 1980s. The album follows a chronological and conceptual line of progression, as the composer shifts from analog electronic techniques to computer music, and again to acoustic instrumentation. Disc one is comprised of two long pieces recorded one year apart using the same technique. "Bronze Cloud Disk" (33 minutes) is made of eight tracks of bowed tam-tam, processed with analog filtering and pitch shifting. One of two highlights in this set, the piece lets all the overtones of the instrument ring delicately. The calm, serene motion of sound waves reveals tons of minute details. "Two Mirrors Face One Another" consists of a similar exercise, this time with Japanese temple bells. The sound palette is not as rich as in the previous track and, at 40 minutes, the piece feels a bit overlong. Moving into disc two, the digital replaces the analog, with the title track providing a second moment of crystal-clear beauty: A real-time performance with the composer at the computer, it sounds both assured and frail, developing soundscapes surprisingly close (although more complex) to the previous pieces. "Staring at the Moon" pairs the computer with a vibraphone, and "Walking Slowly Backwards" ends the set with a vibraphone-only performance -- this instrument is so rich in overtones, there appears to be little need to process it at all. Ten Thousand Shades of Blue is a case of "title says it all." Calm, deep, introspective, but also quite varied in its monochromatic palette, this album contains nothing to irritate the ear -- even for the uninitiated. It fascinates and soothes. Recommended.

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