Fissures (1997)

Robert Rich Writer Alan Rupp

When seen from an unfamiliar viewpoint, even the most familiar object can seem outlandishly alien. Under extreme magnification, oil on the surface of water is a rioting nebula of color; an eggshell is a new planet of plunging valleys and treacherous cliffs. These perceptual cracks in the everyday insure that nothing can be too familiar, that alien encounters may be as likely found within as "out there."  Fissures, the new collaboration between conceptual electronic composers ALIO DIE (Stefano Musso) and ROBERT RICH, is the soundtrack for such psychic displacements, an acoustic and electronic report on the commerce between nature and technology, and structure and amorphism. The music is a rendezvous of divine symmetries, balancing Alio Die's centerless, synthetic beds of sound and Rich's subtle progressions and instrumental arcana. Characterized by recognizable shifts in color - from the strangely familiar surges of half-remembered novenas, to the rhythmic nodes that reflect nature's ceremony - Fissures marks a unique juncture in two innovative artists' careers. "Stefano and I met in 1991, when he wrote asking me to contribute to a compilation, and sent me a CD of his debut album, Under An Holy Ritual. I thought it was excellent, and we quickly formed a strong musical rapport," explains Rich. "Stefano is a sound constructionist who is very sensitive to layers and slow, subtle juxtapositions. His music has a real nostalgia, eerie but not dark. His contribution is sometimes more felt than heard." Musso's role in plotting many of the abstract sounds and drones on Fissures yields some trademark Alio Die moments, such as the haunting phase shifts of "Mycelia" and strange metallic chords of "The Road to Wirikuta."  Bonds to the natural world played a strong part in the conception of Fissures, as Rich explains. The album's vast sonic panoramas have origins in both theoretical and practical considerations: "I know it's a controversial thing to say, but synthesizers aren't capable of certain things. The organic, animal connection you have to the sound making process is lost. That's why Stefano and I approached the recording by employing all the technologies available to us, which includes many acoustic instruments. The sound sources on Fissures are amazingly acoustic, while electronic processing plays a role in setting the atmosphere." Likewise, the perceptual cracks through which the listener falls are those that derange the common outlook of the world. "In the microcosmic world, when you look at details under a microscope, you get a sense of the vastness of minutiae. The hugeness of the music in Fissures mirrors the hugeness of the single-celled organism when seen acutely, closely." Fissures also marks a departure from Rich's so-called "dark ambient" work that has populated several memorable compilations over the past three years, and collected on Fathom's A Troubled Resting Place. This too draws back to the album's central motif and title: the cracks in the world that allow passage into realms both alien and imminent. "A 'fissure,' in the shamanic sense," says Rich, "is the point where you dive between worlds. The connection for me in this metaphor is that the journey is undertaken for healing purposes. Stefano and I took a similar journey in our collaboration, and what we brought back is surprisingly gentle, although not without its shadows."

Alan Rupp

On this exquisitely dark ambient odissey, Robert Rich and Alio Die (Stefano Musso) explore the boundaries between inner and outer,past and present, and darkness and light,guiding us through the fissures of mind and soul that connect all these realms. Ominous drones,textures and samples from Alio Die provide the perfect backdrop for Rich's synths,acoustic percussion,flute,dulcimer and steel guitar. On "A Canopy of Shivers", a waterspout draws liquid sounds from the depths. Fluter waver, distorted by the blue-green waters,as conch-trumpets sound. Surrounded by warm,fluid keyboards, you are tossed about at the mercy of the waves, till you slowly begin to rise toward the surface, smiling at the mirrored stars floating above your head. "Mycelia" excavates a forgotten ritual in an ancient cavern. A tribal drum beats softly but insistently as a flute breathes life into prehistoric wall paintings, animating strange creatures that zip back and forth in the shadows just beyond the leaping firelight . The epic "The Road to Wirikuta" continues the ceremony; each time the drum is stuck multicolored ripples of sound expand outward, illuminating the invisible strands connecting sky, sea and earth, and all the creatures that dwell therein, into the incredibly intricate web of life.

Dave Aftandilian / Alternative Press  sept '97

Robert Rich gives his fascinating,fertile imagination a chance to stretch out with his chops on synths, flutes, percussion, dulcimer,and steel guitar on this spacemusic pairing with Alio Die (a.k.a. Stefano Musso). The somber, majestic first track "Turning to Stone" possesses a wind-swept, liquid undertone that conjures images of water dripping off stalactites in desert caves. The deep bombast of an underground stream emerging into the sunlight introduces the mesmerzing piece "A Canopy of Shivers" unusual metallic percussive accents propel this darkly resonant instrumental outing, yet no sense of isolation is imparted by the music. Instead, one grows ever more curious about these ambient landscapes as the music winds its way on "The Road to Wirikuta"

New Age Retailer Sept. 1997

With "Fissures" the Rich's eleventh or twelfth release he continues a series of unexpected and extraordinary collaborations. Although Rich's lushly textured, deeply exotic solo work is consistently moving, it is rarely dangerous. This element of menace does, however, permeate Fissures. Noted Italian electronic artist Alio Die (Stefano Musso) has long delved into such dank realms, and his influence on the resulting music is powerful, but hardly overwhelming. Rich's strong melodic sense and warm,organic playing balance musso's dark droning textures. Fissures is meditative, ritualistic music, often unsetting but always rich and alluring.

Under the Vulcano July 1997

On this latest album, Fissures, composer Robert Rich departs Somewhat from the dark ambiences and neo-primitive soundscapes that have characterized his most recent work. Though these elements are still present to some degree, along with Rich's ongoing interest in things primordial, this collaboration with Italian sound-shaper Alio Die moves into lighter, more open-ended, even lyrical territory. Alio's subtly shifting drones and washes form the spacious context for seven sonic excursions, with Rich's synthesizers, steel guitar and acoustic instruments probing the cracks (the fissures of the album's title) between different worlds or levels of perception. The result is a slowly unfolding, meditative journey, punctuated by mysterious but non-threatening crackling,clanking and crunching noises, and sweetened by bursts of birdsong. On such pieces as "Mycelia", "The Divine Radiance of Invertebrates" and "Tree of the Wind" we slip into a mysterious but welcoming microcosmic world of unexpectedly huge vistas and luminous detail to merge expanded and revitalized.

Real to Reels News  May/June 1997