Review Summary: Rich offers more to his lengthy discography, but falls towards the end.
Ambient music in many respects seems to have disadvantages since the listener’s adherence towards the music itself is usually lacking. The fact that ambient music can be played to anyone without the bickering of countless people with you is something that we should take time to understand. Many people who stumble towards this genre are either completely bored of ambient the style stating that it goes nowhere, citing their lack of patience as a problem. I sense this problem branches to other genres such as post-rock, post-metal, and avant-garde in some form another. Sure, each of these genres holds their own type of niche in the music community, but I feel ambient music is under-appreciated. Its origins can be traced all the way to the 70’s, yet has not garnered much attention other than from critics (I’m speaking of modern ambient). The genre has influenced countless amounts of people in many different genres: Pink Floyd, Massive Attack, Radiohead; I could go on spanning many genres in the last 30 years. Robert Rich has been making albums for 3 decades, not only this, but he has found the devotion and motivation to release over 30 albums in that time period. Something that is extraordinary and a testament towards his contributions towards the genre he belongs too.
Rich’s use of dark ambient involves guitars (varies from lap steel and acoustic), flutes, keyboards, and most importantly a MOTM synthesizer. His career is far too long to get into detail about, but since ‘Electric Ladder’ is a continuation of his earlier work (‘Gaudi’ being a prime example) in setting sequences for his music it progresses track by track. This type of approach builds the music naturally and many of the instruments used in this album have a haunting reverb.
The first 2 tracks are strictly used with synthesizer and keyboard, incorporating a base for the music to build off of. It works well, since the first 2 tracks seemingly meld together without us knowing, each mass drone of music builds off of the next. “Electric Ladders” shaking beginning only gets stronger as the music chugs forward. “Poppy Fields” uses a bassoon and what sounds like a saxophone to develop a richer atmosphere towards the middle of the track. This continues onwards through the forth track “Sky Tunnel”, but instead of progressing gradually “Sky Tunnel” opts for a more speedy approach with a quick repetitive synthesizer holding the weight even more. “Electric Ladder” and “Shadowline” move in succession like the rest of the album, but only seem to meld with each other amazingly well; not being able to decipher where one ends and the other begins. Each track contains a dark, repetitive synthesizer to move the tracks along with incoming diversity of various guitars, flutes, bassoon, and saxophone littered. Not all of these tracks encompass these instruments. "Concentric” is simply the best track on the album. The synthesizer is overshadowed by the extremely beautiful flutes and acoustic guitar strums in the background.
Rich’s continuation of his past style of dark ambient movements along with new age drones makes this a strong album. Its continued progression track by track is relaxing and flows extremely well. Unfortunately ‘Electric Ladder’ gets tedious by the end. ‘Electric Ladder’s’ biggest problem with this progression is the lack of variation once it gets past “Concentric”. This problem derives from the various progressions each track takes once they enter another sequence. “Aquifer” and “Never Alone” just don’t build on that at all. Nonetheless ‘Electric Ladder’ is a good listen for anyone who is interested in more ambient music and if you don’t know who Robert Rich is I condemn ye to hell! If you’re a fan of any type of ambient music than I’d suggest scuffling through his discography and don’t worry I was just joking about the whole hell thing.