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The title of this 2010 album comes from ylang ylang, a flowering tree that grows in South Asia, with a mysterious fragrance that embodies elements of shadow and light, eros and gnosis, earth and sky.
Pushing the boundaries of Robert's melodic world-fusion vocabulary, such as on Seven Veils or Propagation, Ylang blends Rich's expressive steel guitar, shimmering organic electronics and yearning flute melodies with influences as diverse as south Indian Karnatic music, pulsing minimalism and pensive jazz; while its deconstructed drums and blurry guitar feedback might feel at home with Sigur Ros or Bark Psychosis.
Rich enlists help for this undertaking from a circle of trusted musician friends. The rhythmic scaffolding for the album comes from two very different drummers. Ricky Carter adds his intelligent sparse drumming, fluid with syncopation but complex in meter. These rhythms could be a slow tempo homage to Jaki Leibzeit from Can. Post-processing transforms them into rubbery chuffing abstractions. The other rhythmic foundation comes from the Karnatic mrdungam playing of Sakthivel Muruganandhan, which also wanders into Rich''s sonic blender, shifting from time- stretched blurs into organic live duets with bansuri master Sunilkumar Sankarapillai.
Lilting in and out of this heady atmosphere of South Indian music and minimalist space jazz, the wordless voice of art-pop virtuoso Emily Bezar adds a feminine intelligence to several pieces, and subtle melodic guitar additions from Haroun Serang augment Rich's soaring lap steel feedback. With acoustic bass from Paul Olguin and string additions from Forrest Fang and Hans Christian, the sonic texture warms to a glowing woody earthiness. Rich's audiophile production and delicate sound design glue the textures together into a seductive and inviting mossy nest. From these disparate elements, Ylang forms a sonic entity unto itself.
Robert Rich: flutes, lap steel , piano, percussion, MOTM modular & synths
Ricky Carter: drums
Sakthivel Muruganandhan: mrdungam
Sunilkumar Sankarapillai: bansuri
Haroun Serang: guitar
Emily Bezar: voice
Forrest Fang: violin
Hans Christian: cello
Paul Olguin: upright bass