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Richard Lainhart Ten Thousand Shades of Blue Review

Album. Released 22 October 2001.  

BBC Review

Minimalist electroacoustics from Richard Lainhart who proves that there's no place...

Peter Marsh 2002

Richard Lainhart was seduced by the possibilities of sound at an early age after hitting the low E string on a bass guitar. Since then, with a background that encompasses electroacoustic composition and jazz vibraphone, he's evolved a singular vision as a composer, performer and engineer of darkly seductive minimalism; this 2 CD set compiles six pieces from 1975 to 1989.

The first three pieces here subject various sound sources to similar treatments; long tones are stacked upon one another, filtered and pitch shifted to provide rich, glassy drones. The harmonies are loose, ambiguous; sometimes sunny, major tonalities peek through to be subverted by dense note clusters that flirt with dissonance.Though the music has the unlocked, semi improvisational quality of some of Brian Eno's or Robert Fripp's work, Lainhart's background suggests a more rigorous compositional approach rooted in the minimal dronescapes of Pauline Olivieros, Alvin Lucier or even Tony Conrad.

The results are very much Lainhart's own; "Bronze Cloud Disk" (for bowed tam tam) coaxes subtle harmonics into a glacial mass of gently shifting drones centred round a single note. Listened to at low volume, it purrs away innocently enough; up close under headphones, it's a different animal, intense, metallic and a bit scary. "Two Mirrors Face Another" uses the pure sinetones of bowed Japanese temple bells; again at volume it's a bit unforgiving, the tones almost too pure to engage.

The later title track and "Staring at the Moon" use an algorithmic sequencing package to generate semi improvisational soundscapes, joined by vibes on the latter piece. Though the harmonic devices remain pretty much unchanged, the softer, recessed electronic textures and a greater use of silence offer a deep listening experience that rivals the best flotation tank. The ear is invited to zoom in on small details, registering tiny perceptual changes, picking up on faint sonic vapour trails as they drift out of audibility.

The closing "Walking Slowly Backwards" is a quietly virtuoso performance for solo vibes; Lainhart draws long drones with the bow while coaxing gentle rolling swells with the mallets. This piece has some of the crystalline beauty of Harold Budd's Pavilion of Dreams, shot through with a darker, chromatic hue. Rewarding, engaging music that's worth your time.

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