Release / Relapse
Originally released in 1997, this collaboration between dark ambient musician Robert Rich and guitarist Rick Davies has recently been re-released. Much as I enjoy Rich’s solo releases, I have always preferred the music he makes with others, and Amoeba’s Watchful is no exception: Davies’s guitar textures complement Rich’s synths, percussion, and flute extremely well.
Mostly, Watchful is music for musing and meandering. You have to be patient with it; sit back and give it a chance to wash over you and buoy you up. Much of the album evokes the oceans for me, from “Inside”’s feeling of introspection as you watch the waves roll onto the beach to the mysterious liquid synths and off-kilter drums and guitars of “Ignoring Gravity”’s primordial soup (or “glurp,” to use a favorite Rich word). The guitars on “Saragossa” have a very Frippian sound, which blends surprisingly well with the track’s Andean flutes, island percussion rhythms, and synths. And “Watchful Eyes” makes for a lovely album closer, with its dark synths painting a backdrop of the endless night sky, against which guitars flash bright and sudden as twinkling stars, until the quiet flutes fade slowly into the coming dawn.
Rich’s vocals don’t do a whole lot for me, and there are a couple of tracks that are so overloaded with random bits of music that they’re in danger of toppling under their own weight. But taken as a whole, Amoeba’s Watchful is a mesmerizing offering from one of the masters of dark ambient music, together with some extremely impressive guitarscapes from Davies.
Relapse, P.O. Box 2069, Upper Derby, PA 19082; http://www.relapse.com