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Trances & Drones

by Robert Rich

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mysticwolf75 thumbnail
mysticwolf75 Another good memory from the late 90s. This was yet another special order at Record Theater (I worked a few stores away from them and stopped in every day on my lunch break). It was the Extreme Records edition. Many years later, I bought the reissue on Hypnos. (Also, at some point, when I ordered something from Robert's site, he sent me an autographed copy of the sleeve from the Extreme edition). Anyway, I always like this one when I just want to relax and unwind. Thanks again, Robert! Favorite track: Cave Paintings.
AndrewHollo thumbnail
AndrewHollo Around 1983 I owned cassette copies of Trances and Drones (and another I recall was simply titled “Live”) and wore them all out with repeated bedtime listening .... fabulous to have them here on Bandcamp. Favorite track: Wheel of Earth.
Richard Hammond
Richard Hammond thumbnail
Richard Hammond Ah, I get it now- this music is nearly 40 years old and we still haven’t caught up with it. THIS is why Robert Rich is idolised amongst the cognoscenti....
Evergreen thumbnail
Evergreen Fantastic meditative ambient drone without the new age kitsch. This massive collection will never get old.. Robert really knows how to take you on a journey.
Richard Gürtler
Richard Gürtler thumbnail
Richard Gürtler I still keep clearly in mind the day in 1995 when Extreme edition of "Trances/Drones" crossed my targets. My sonic explorations were culminating around that time. But as soon as "Hayagriva" invaded my listening room, I knew something special is about to happen... Yes, a brand new gates were unlocked, a definite turning point!!! Robert Rich has recorded tracks for "Trances/Drones" during 1982 and 1983, aged between 19 and 20 years old!!! And this is what fascinates me the most!!!
Andrew Ferguson
Andrew Ferguson thumbnail
Andrew Ferguson Bargain download, epic soundscapes that are great for taking the edge off public transport.
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  • Last remaining CDs, Release RR6455-2
    Compact Disc (CD) + Digital Album

    The last 2CD release on Hypnos is now sold out, but I have a few left of the out-of-print Release/Relapse version (Release RR6455-2), discovered in a storage box last year. I hope to update the graphics soon, but for now I have a front cover scan.

    Includes unlimited streaming of Trances & Drones via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.

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Hayagriva 25:13
Seascape 29:59
Resonance 12:19


Listeners present for Robert Rich's earliest music, going back to his time at Stanford, may recall the early 80s cassette releases of Trances and Drones as separate albums. Most of us became familiar with Trances/Drones as a unified ambient masterwork on double CD, first released on the Extreme label in 1994, then reissued by Release/Relapse in 2000.

As an enthusiast of ambient and drone music, before I started Hypnos recordings in 1996, I remember Trances & Drones as one of the most significant influences on my evolving sense of what ambient music could be: psychologically powerful; not just relaxing but transporting; a way of summoning dreamlike or visionary states while awake.

I remember lying in darkness, listening to a rotation of favorite CDs that included Trances/Drones. This recording seemed to convey something sacred or otherworldly, well beyond the detached "spacey" quality to which most such music aspires. This powerful effect derives from Robert's mingling of organic "earthy" sounds, such as flute, guitar and voice, along with spacious drifting textures from electronic sources.

My own philosophies regarding the aesthetics of atmospheric music formed to the backdrop of this soundtrack. Hypnos could not exist without that influence.

- Mike Griffin, May 2013


Recorded in 1983, towards the end of Robert's psychology studies at Stanford, Trances and Drones reveal the slower, more meditative side of Robert's music. This pair of albums may be among the most intensely purposeful of Robert's releases, reflecting a purely contemplative almost esoteric approach to trance music. It may surprise you to learn that at the time Robert recorded these albums, he considered them to be relatively "active" compared to his prior work. His live performances up to this point consisted of 9-hour, all-night sleep concerts which typically started around 10pm and wrapped up around 7 in the morning.
(From the album notes by Rick Davies.)


Robert Rich: Trances / Drones (2-CD, 71:57 and 70:14); (review of a previous edition)

Gaining a descriptive foothold when reviewing ambient music is like collecting quicksilver into discernable word-shapes -- an elusive moment frozen in time. When I sample over 142 minutes of Robert Rich's Trances / Drones release and so set it to paper, then to disks, then to cyberspace -- art loses its energy, I am wordless, stunned, drained.
This 2-CD offering is 1982-83 Richscapes remastered in 1993 for re-release in 2000. Old wines hold a special treasure to be discovered many years later. And so it is with Rich's vintage works. This is an unadorned, simple yet rich ambience. It is full of unseen power and subtle in its manner of delivery. It overwhelms without smothering. It soothes without the overdone and boring, standard- industry-ambient-isms, (such "amb-boring-isms" will be discussed in a future article soon). Anyway, I find this release a wonderful break from "the norm".
Rich was finishing his psychology studies at Stanford when these pieces first became reality. Rich was well aware of brain functions, sleep cycles, and also big into the lucid dream research thing then. (I too have unsuccessfully tried holding my hand up in front of my face and/or speaking my name aloud in dreams to establish a higher consciousness in dreamsleep.) These six tracks are created then, with purpose, focused on the brain and a manipulation/massaging of "rest-plateaus". Rich actually held "sleep-gigs' where people arrived with sleeping bags ready for the 10pm - 7am concert. Such musicks of that Rich era are now available for mass consumption.
Sonic lulls, uniform restfulness, deep-level ambient psyche- shifts are now ready for the comfort of your living room instead of the 80's sleeping bag scene. Rich's pieces are neither bright nor airy. They are descending clouds of Hypnos, heavy gauze, almost dark yet more ethereal than noir-tension threatening. This beatless, non-melodic, huge waved, walls-of-sound entity -- topples, melts, and immerses the psyche beneath the everyday din. You are carried into subterrene voids, weightlessly drifting above enigma, and that separation of mind/body/3-D space/time flow awareness quickly loses former definition. You will only understand me after you hear Rich. This is music before Rich got rhythmic, dripping, echoed, dark and well-known in noir-amb and ethnic/tribal percussives. This is Rich on his first thresholds of ambient middle-earth. This stuff is the stuff -- resonating a purity of form and accomplishing the brain's wavestates Rich was so fascinated with decades ago. For those of you needing references: think David Parsons' Himalaya stripped down, slowed to 16 rpm or Klaus Schulze's X in a holding pattern around his most non- sequenced "space-out' fugues. This a very minimal, very approachable ambience that will absolutely mesmerize you. Highest of recommendations. Good night listener, see you in dreamland . . . ~ John W. Patterson


released May 1, 2013

Tracks 1,2,4,5 © 1983 by Robert Rich
Track 3 © 1981 by Robert Rich

"Cave Paintings" and "Hayagriva" originally released in 1983 on Trances. "Seascape" and "Wheel of Earth" originally released in 1983 on Drones.
"Sunyata (Emptiness)" originally released in 1981 on Sunyata.

All music composed, performed, produced and recorded by Robert Rich, except "Sunyata (Emptiness)" co-produced and recorded by Ron MacLeod at Studio M in Palo Alto. All tracks remasterd by Robert Rich at Soundscape, Mountain View, in 1993. Remastering assistance by Bob Olhsson.

Instruments: Sequential Prophet-5, lap steel guitar, bamboo flute, homemade modular synthesizer.


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Robert Rich California

Robert Rich has helped define ambient and electronic music, with over 50 albums across four decades. Rich began building his own analog modular synthesizers in 1976, when he was 13, and later studied computer music at Stanford's CCRMA while researching lucid dreaming. Rich performs and lectures worldwide. His all-night Sleep Concerts have become legendary. ... more

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