Info Electronic Drifting: The Music of Richard Lainhart 
"White Night"
by Richard Lainhart
Ex Ovo (EXO1974)
"White Night"
"Four Voices"
"The Orchestra of the Damned"
"Lines in Sand"

Richard Lainhart's URL

The Beautiful Blue Sky


fn issue October 2011
'N-Plants' - Biosphere
'Sky Snails' - The Electric Golem
'Echo Park' - Willamette
'Gramophone Transmissions' - Broken Harbour
'Negative Space' - Blue Sausage Infant
'Home Patterning' - compilation
'Polychromatic Integers' - Richard Lainhart
'Generate Records' - compilation
'Sung In Broken Symmetry' - Aquarelle

Electronic music technology has evolved dramatically over the last thirty years, a change often reflected in a musician's output: as the tools have increased in sophistication, the music has grown more refined and polished. Once in a while, we find an artist whose clarity of vision enables him or her to transcend the limitations of technology, and whose youthful music elicits the same response as their contemporary creations. One such artists is Richard Lainhart, who has been a pioneer of electronic music for over thirty years, creating complex and ever shifting sound worlds from the gamut of available instruments. His recent releases, including the April 2008 album The Beautiful Blue Sky, are only available by download (in mp3 or FLAC format), and his most recent physical release is a reissue of his 1974 piece White Night on the German label Ex Ovo.

Lainhart's music can be characterized by slow and quiet drifting, overlapping events swelling in and out, revolving around fairly static harmonies. He described White Night's intricate compositional process for Ex Ovo, but the results belie the careful planning behind the months of work. White Night shimmers, the long sounds hanging in space like a mobile quietly turning in an ambient breeze. Considering that the piece is from 1974, when synthesizers and sequencers were making inroads as pop music instruments, and a year before Brian Eno's landmark ambient release Discreet Music, White Night could have just as easily have been composed last week.

The biggest difference between Lainhart's music in 1974 and in 2008 is that the instruments have progressed to the point where the sounds he achieved in 1974 with a few months work in a well-equipped academic studio can now be improvised on the spot. The Beautiful Blue Sky gathers six of Lainhart's most recent recordings, performed in real time with a highly sophisticated performance controller from Haken and a contemporary analog synthesizer from Buchla. The title track is a superb example, a rolling texture of warm harmonies, constantly moving but never arriving. Orchestra of the Damned is cinematic with all of its texture changes, from sparse, quiet sounds to constant, siren drones, including a remarkable section reminiscent of the earliest electronic works from Cologne and Paris of the 1950s. But Lainhart uses the live performances to create extended melodies as well. Four Voices, for example, starts with a wide frequency spectrum like a jet airplane taking off in slow motion, but then launches a melody over a slowly evolving harmony, sounding almost like one of Robert Fripp's soundscapes. Even more surprising (until one is reminded that Lainhart occasionally plays vibes in swing bands) is Lines of Sand, whose rhythmic underpinning supports a growling, slinking and very expressive bass lead.

Many contemporary musicians take their inspiration from natural processes. Lainhart's musical models come from clouds, flames and waves, whose nebulous and ever shifting formations are the catalyst for his beautiful electronic works.

Review by Caleb Deupree


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