Robert Rich is joined by guitarist Rick Davies to produce some of the
most soothing meloncholy music around.
A superb and unusual album that mesmerizes and engulfs. Rated 5/5, "Essential"
- Mark Burby, Alternative Press
Haunting, beautiful work. . . relaxed but carefully detailed, hypnotic,
melodic, a bit melancholy. . . I recommend it.
- Brent Wilcox, Strange Attractors
As close as a sure bet as it can be (given that it's a vocal album) for
fans of Robert's previous work.
- Bill Binkelman, Wind & Wire
This disk is a successful departure for Rich.
- Russel Summers, Option
Bespeaks a very different consciousness than is usually heard from either
- Canary Burton, AMP
Hauntingly elegant. . . Dreamscapes dissolve into nightmares from which
you can't awaken, perhaps because you really don't wish to.
- NAPRA review
A sort of soft, atmospheric mood pop that's unique and quite beautiful.
Do not expect this music to lull you, for it has a sneaky edge that creeps
out when you least expect. . . Very recommended.
- Matt Howarth, Post Brothers (View the original comic, by Matt Howarth, color by Zuma)
Review by Mark Burbey
rated 5/5, "Essential"
Amoeba is something very new and different from ambient sound sculptor Robert Rich, but judging from past conversations with him about his musical tastes and influences, it's not wholly unexpected. Collaborating with Rich is guitarist Rick Davies, and together the duo have arrived at something sounding vaguely like Robert Wyatt on Valium: music for life-weary somnambulists. Embracing the meloncholy that lingers just beyond the thin veil of hope, the songs on Watchful linger in the netherworld of sinking memory and damaged dreams.
Though describing one song would be like describing a single button on a very interesting sweater, "Footless" is a spellbinding drift, floating through fathomless corridors of lost connections. Hans Christian's cello adds an especially haunting touch to this and two other cuts. "Ignoring Gravity" is even more ghostly, as if one's soul were disintegrating cell by cell. Don Swanson (of the L.A.-based art-rock ensemble The Telling) provides unobtrusive snare and cymbal. "Desolation" lives down to its title, leading us by the hand through a damp cave of uncertainty. The entire album seems to be a journey down the black waters of an unraveling psyche, and unless you're someone who needs to drink your coffee in a happy face mug, you might be able to relate.
In addition to his usual idiosyncratic virtuosity on synth, winds, steel guitar and percussion, Rich ventures onto the delicate limb of vocals and succeeds nicely, sounding much like a man who has just left his body. Davies' acoustic and electric guitars mingle, propel and support Rich's instruments and voice in perfect partnership. This is a superb and unusual album that mesmerizes and engulfs. (Lektronic Soundscapes, POB 15867, Durham NC 27704)
Review by Texture
This is the second full-lengh CD from the dark side of Robert Rich. Although this incarnation of Amoeba is totally different from the first Amoeba release, Eye Catching, it still dives into the very surreal work of Robert Rich. For this album, Watchful, Robert Rich is joined by guitarist Rick Davies to produce some of the most soothing meloncholy music around. Very much like the moods created by artists like The Durutti Column, Amoeba mixes ethnic instrumentation and sweet simple guitar orientations backed by comforting vocalizations. I particularly like Robert Rich's singing. He uses his voice as a tonal instrument, stretching the timbre of each sentence to lush effects. Watchful is not like any of Robert Rich's solo work. Under his disguise as Amoeba, he is able to freely create and fuse beautiful meloncholy music with rhythm and vocals that is at the opposite end of soundscape. If you were scared away with Amoeba's first album, it's OK, even Rich admits it was comically vulgar. But Watchful will surely sooth your ears and emotions.
Strange Attractors - online magazine
Reviewed by Brent Wilcox
AMOEBA is the haunting, beautiful work of Robert Rich and Rick Davies. Robert Rich is well known in the ambient/electronica world for the attention he gives sonic details in his solo soundscapes, and he brings that ear here to an album of -- essentially -- pop music. It's a diffuse sort of pop music, surprisingly difficult to describe (no matter how many adjectives I throw at it). Watchful (Lektronic Soundscapes / Lektronic@aol.com) suggests a state of passive attention, a relaxed focus on passing events -- alert but open to peripheral input. This music works in a similar state -- relaxed but carefully detailed, hypnotic, melodic, a bit melancholy. There's a small, growing sub-genre out there, of pop music that creates mood with pauses and silences, noises and textures -- reference points go back to Robert Wyatt and Nick Drake, or forward to Cocteau Twins, Durrutti Column, Dead Can Dance and especially the last two indescribable Talk Talk albums. "Footless" and "Ignoring Gravity" are my favorite tracks here, especially the latter's weirdly hovering guitar work. In fact, "hovering" seems a good word for a lot of this album; it's music that hovers around your ears, tweaking and holding your attention with fascinating details and melodies, never landing heavily. It's beautiful, but not always pretty. Often stark and threatening motifs underlay fragmentary melodies -- or tuneful moments are unwound, reconstructed as strangely-familiar alien landscapes. But it never wanders beyond accessibility, and I recommend it.
Reviewed by P.R.
Hauntingly elegant, dark goth, atmospheric psychoscapes are explored by Ambient pioneer Robert Rich, teamed up with Rick Davies for the first time since '84 in a new Bay Area band. Rich contributed the vocals, percussion, synths, steel guitar and winds while Davies adds electric and acoustic guitar and bass. Dreamscapes dissolve into nightmares from which you can't awaken, perhaps because you really don't wish to. Lose yourself for an hour in Watchful and let me know what you see.
Wind & Wire
Reviewed by Bill Binkelman
A vocal rock album from Robert Rich, the master of ambient noir and long flowing instrumental music? Believe it, my children and it's a good rock album to boot, although using the term "rock" is somewhat misleading, in my opinion. Yes, Robert sings and he and his close friend Rick Davies play electric and acoustic guitar, bass and drums. But within that framework, the music is actually pretty close to some of the same territory that Rich explores on his own. Unless you just loathe vocals (and Rich's voice is not too bad - in fact it kind of grew on me) if you like Robert's instrumental work, give this one a try.
For comparisons sake. I think this sounds like it could be a release on the Projekt label (although when I told Robert this he disagreed - he believed that the sound was closer to the progressive rock group Talk Talk.) His vocals have that soft-spoken and slightly echo-y sound to them of groups like Love Spirals Downward and Soul Whirling Somewhere. The lyrics can be pretty damn hard to decipher, but the "feel" of the songs is that of a whole, i.e. music and singing combined to be more than their sum. Lots of the songs have extended instrumental periods in them and some have no vocals at all.
Standout cuts include te opener, "Inside," with its nice tribal rhythm and lead guitar intro, the instrumental "Origami," with a haunting strummed guitar and eerie background sounds, the mournful cello accompaniment on "Footless," the Stalker-like opening to "Desolation," and the blend of Gaudi-like sounds and flute with exotic percussion on the instrumental song "Saragossa."
I don't care for everything on the album, though. I could do without the very odd sounding vocal FX on "Big Clouds," and "Ignoring Gravity" seems a bit nondescript. On balance though, this is as close as a sure bet as it can be (given that it's a vocal album) for fans of Robert's previous work. For myself, I wouldn't mind hearing more of Amoeba in the future.
Reviewed by Russel Summers
This is multi-instrumentalist Robert Rich's foray into the "alternative" rock market, and of the many disks on which he's featured, this is the first to display his vocals. Rich knows his limitations, and makes the best of them. He multi-tracks his voice throughout in a haze of digital delay, turning his lack of vocal range and technique into a strength. By using his voice as atmosphere and as instrument, he makes the texture of the music much more interesting. This melding is perhaps most effective on "Inside" and "Skin." The other half of this ensemble, Rick Davies, is no virtuoso, but his tone, unerring sense of rhythm, and again, focus on textureand atmosphere, serve him well. The duo also tastefully uses guests on cello, female voice, drums and saxophone to add the appropriately spare production values. Due to the opaque, guazy quality of the vocals, it would have been great to have had a lyric sheet. "Ignoring Gravity," for instance, seems fascinating from that standpoint alone. That minor complaint aside, this disk is a successful departure for Rich.
Amoeba-"Watchful" CD-A project of ambient composer Robert Rich, AMOEBA rides a more song-based approach, albeit a very atmospheric, moody one. Rich's drones and sound washes are here complimented by receding, whispery vocals, and sparse percussion. A sort of soft, atmospheric mood pop that's unique and quite beautiful. (Lektronic Soundscapes)
POST BROS 57 (Sept 1997):
Amoeba is a collaboration between Rick Davies and ambient pioneer Robert Rich. The result is a very sinuous merger of atmospheric, gothic and psychedelia. Start with a very sparse electronic air...add a hint of tribal percussion...begin dreamy echo-phased vocals...inject shimmering astral guitar. A variety of other instruments have cameos: steel drums, flute, cello, sax. Do not expect this music to lull you, for it has a sneaky edge that creeps out when you least expect. I am simultaneously reminded of Steve Roach, Peter Blegvad, Michael Brook, and Dead Can Dance. Imagine lounge lizard music for Mensa. Very recommended.