Robert Rich enters the Echoes Chamber and launches the ultimate Ambient soundscape App.
There’s been a lot of Robert Rich on Echoes this year. He was one of 20 Icons of Echoes. His album Ylang was a CD of the Month. He played live on the show this year and he’ll be featured tonight, July 21, in an Echoes Chamber sesssion. But he’s just quietly released something new that may be my most used iPhone App besides iTunes.
Back in 2001, Robert Rich released the DVD, Somnium. No images. Just 7 hours of ambient landscapes slowly shifting over the course of the DVD, replicating the effect of one of his all night sleep concerts.
Now he’s turned that into an iPhone/iPod app. For 99¢ you can download the app, turn off your mind and float downstream. Except the App is better than the DVD in that the DVD is frozen music, while the Somnium App is always changing. The music consists of long loops from the original Somnium recording that are reconfigured into new combinations. Evertime you step in, it’s at a different point and going to different places.
The Somnium App has a simple-to-a-fault interface. The only interactive controls are for pace, a slider that goes from Slow to Slower, and a start button. The directions say to use iPod volume buttons to adjust volume, but my first gen iPod Touch has no such buttons and if you want to go back and readjust the pace while it’s playing, the sound stops and doesn’t begin again until you hit start.
But once you set Somnium in motion, you won’t want to mess with it anyway. Slow motion melodies undulate like the long arcing waves of sand dunes, wafting through environments of electronic nature sounds and virtual dreamscapes. Flutes thread the textured soundscapes like sprites observing the tableau. Sometimes it’s exotic and mystical like a Tolkien landscape, sometimes dark and unmoored, like ships adrift in an abandoned harbor.
I’ve already listened to the Somnium App more than I ever listened to the original DVD after my initial review. The iPod/iPhone platform is more suitable than the DVD which forced you into a listening space. With the Somnium App, I can alter any space I’m in, whether it’s the media room or the grocery store. It may be the best 99¢ you’ve ever spent.
John Diliberto ((( echoes )))