Time Travel







Wind & Wire
- A Review by Bill Binkelman

Richard Bone

    Richard Bone goes to Russia - in a manner of speaking, of course. The keyboard artist who continually reinvents himself has released an album on Artemiy Artemiev's fine Electroshock label and the results are, of course, immensely rewarding for fans of Bone's more ambient/minimal music, such as Tales of the Incantina, as well as the artist¹s earlier works on the Hypnos label. However, something about being hooked up with Artemiev obviously influenced Richard because Indium (named for the metallic element) also contains Bone's first long-form ambient track, the album closer, "Indium, Part II." At thirty minutes in duration, it¹s longer than anything that I've ever heard from Bone, whom I consider one of the most versatile, talented and appealing artists recording electronic music today.

    Before arriving at the long piece, however, the listener is treated to seven delightful and minimal explorations of both light and shadow. "Indium Part I" begins with nocturnal creature sounds (ya gotta hear this on headphones ­ the various critters are everywhere), before enveloping the listener in warm drones, lush choruses (a la Larry Kucharz) and subtly echoed minimal piano. "Mercurial Waves" is a newly recorded version of the great track from Bone's previous recording, A Survey of Remembered Things. Gentle undulations of synth washes, ebbing and flowing drones, and twinkling keyboards are too beautiful for words to do them justice ­ and that's all before the upper register piano enters the track!

     Among the other five short tracks are more gems, some wandering into slightly shadowy realms, such as "Mayapan," and its noir-ish sound textures and drones acting as an undercurrent for some of Bone's most minimal piano yet (definitely sounding like Harold Budd at times), although as the track develops, lighter elements come into play, such as twinkling bells, serving up a delicate juxtaposition of emotions. "In a Space Between Marigolds" casts a pastoral glow over a warm soundscape, reminding me of recent recordings from Michael Allison, a.k.a. Darshan Ambient. Liquid-warm synths flow serenely over and around muted bass notes and a delicate electronic melodic refrain, and once again the introduction of minimal bell-tones toward the song's conclusion lends an air of gentility and grace to the overall impact of the music. Both "Jasmnia" and "Laguna Blue" are among my favorites on Indium, although (as usual for a Bone album) I love everything on the CD. The latter is truly luxurious electronic ambient music, with ultra-lush synth choruses sighing in ecstasy on top of an assortment of pillow-soft electronic keyboard undertones. Liquid Mind-like synth strings impart even more peacefulness later in the track.

    "Indium Part II," like any long-form ambient work, is difficult (to say the least) to review/describe in conventional terms. Over its thirty minutes, it swings from the abstract opening passage, featuring alien-ish swirling effects (lots of whooshing and whishing in the soundfield) and arrhythmic 24th century-meets-`50s SF chattering EM, to a slightly warm undulating ambient drone stretch that floats on top of the more disturbing textures, and beyond that friendlier and decidedly ethereal sonic landscapes, not unlike a distant cousin of Kevin Braheny's The Way Home. But, Richard Bone is just getting warmed up at this point of the song, and lots more cool stuff remains to be heard, such as a type of music I've not heard from him ­ kinetic neo-Berlin EM, intermixing twinkling bell-tree tones, waves of (what sounds like) sequenced synth notes, and sumptuous undercurrents of luxurious synth strings. This kinetic section of the song goes on for a while, although Bone introduces different musical elements as it progresses (such as echoed piano and other electronic keyboard sounds) as well as discarding/removing previous instrumentation. As the track ends, we're back where we started with ­ whooshing and whirring effects and vague chattering electronics.

    Certainly, "Indium Part II" represents something new and exciting from Richard Bone, and once I got used to its length, I loved it. In some ways, his evolutionary technique with the piece mirrors what Thomas Ronkin (and his albums Within: Distance and Symmetric) does on his long-form tracks, i.e. allow the music to have a life of its own - meandering, morphing, and flowing with an almost organic subtle patience. By doing so, the music maintains listener interest over the entire length of the piece. The significant difference between Bone and Ronkin is, of course, the latter's emphasis of Berlin school themes and motifs, whereas Bone's music is less linear and more vertical in its diversity, although some Germanic elements surface in "Indium Part II."

    After having released the cyber-lounge trilogy (Electropica, Coxa, Ascensionism), the ambient-meets-new age of Tales of the Incantina, and the bouncy world-beat electronica of Disorient, I (and other astute critics and fans) recognize that Richard Bone is a veritable master of musical disguises. With Indium, Bone once again pushes both his personal envelope and the envelope of electronic/ambient music in general. From Budd-like minimalism to soothing synth string ambience to that fantastic long-form exploration of neo-Germanism and beyond, Indium represents a high-water mark for this highly imaginative and immensely talented artist. I've said it before and I'll say it again ­ Richard, I can't even conceive of what you have up your sleeve next, but I doubt I'll be disappointed! As for Indium, well, need I say it - it earns my highest recommendation.

Review by Bill Binkelman