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June 06/24/22, 2022
Imagine the serenity of walking through mountaintop cloudbanks, and one gets a sense of Cloudwalker and the Ascent, the new release from Zero Ohms, releasing today on Spotted Peccary Music. Richard Roberts, the electronic ambient music composer behind Zero Ohms, takes inspiration from the western North Carolina mountains where he lives to create electronic textures and meditative flute melodies.

Music possesses the capacity for awakening a deeper part of the self within. As writer, painter, musician, teacher and producer, Richard Roberts follows what he has termed Tao of Zero Ohms (literally: way of no resistance). Zero Ohms aptly describes Richard’s palette of sounds, with flutes and woodwinds from around the planet interwoven with electronics, at once as ancient as it is contemporary. Playing wind-controlled synthesizers and over fifty various flutes, saxes, and other woodwinds, he embraces styles from around the globe and beyond. Zero Ohms is also a live performance artist: most recently, he performed at the Mountain Skies Electronic Music festival in North Carolina.

The way is clear – to listen while letting go – this is The Tao of Zero Ohms.

Cloudwalker and the Ascent is a climb to higher consciousness from a master of the genre. Each morning, he set out to hike the highest peak. Up there, the clouds hung so close to the earth he walked through them. One of Roberts’ friends nicknamed him “Cloudwalker,” and the album’s concept was born. With Cloudwalker and the Ascent, he has recreated this solitary space for the listener in seven pieces featuring shorter compositions and sparser arrangements than on his previous albums. While retaining the improvisations of prior Zero Ohms albums, Roberts uses minimal drones, overdubs, and fewer flutes. Roberts played only a 1954 HaynesSchwelm, a 1995 Armstrong bass flute, an Elemental Flutes Native American bass flute, and a vintage Roland JV-1010 wind-controlled synthesizer.

According to lost distant legends, the mountain is home to countless holy spirits and possesses an array of holy properties. Music can be an invitation to explore such a world while being good to it, discovering truly stunning treasures which might appear to sound as if they were suspended in the air. Listen to the most mind blowing colors, exploring the remains of opulent elevated palaces, temples, fortifications, markets and much more. Invest precious time soaking in the breathtaking acoustic views, structures appear to be cascading down the side of the steep, rocky cliffs. “I have tried to establish a sense of infinity and freedom, and the sense of timelessness that seems to come with it,” reflects the composer.

Flutes are possibly the earliest known identifiable musical instruments, often found in the deepest and darkest parts of some ancient caves, where the acoustics work the most potent magic. I do not think these once lost instruments will be found to have lost so very much of their original sonic fragrance and flavor. This ancient musical implement is sometimes called an aerophone, it is a reedless wind instrument that produces its sound from the flow of air across an opening. What I hear are multiple harmonics that sound as if we are in huge caverns, the sound is very big but not in a loud way, rather, the sound appears to be suspended in the air in a clever and delicate sustained calming way, this is deep listening you can follow into unknown territories. Zero Ohms adds his flutes and woodwinds to his electronic soundscapes and gets a very unique and serene, mellow and meditative sound, evoking gravity-defying remote places and fabulous scenery.

The music of Zero Ohms includes wind-synth tones skillfully blended to form his unique musical palette, coaxing ecstatic wanderings at once as ancient as they are contemporary, with flutes and woodwinds from around the planet interwoven with electronics and well placed savory-pungent acoustic spices. Zero Ohms (Richard Roberts) is a writer, painter, musician, teacher and producer, who follows what he has termed Tao of Zero Ohms (literally: way of no resistance).

Most of this new album, Cloudwalker and the Ascent, was recorded while living in a small community prosaically called Little Switzerland, due to its resemblance to an Alpine village. "I often walked to nearby overlooks that are breathtaking when clear but frequently were quite literally ‘in the clouds’ hence, I became Cloudwalker," reflects Roberts. The beauty of this place combined with the uncertainties of the pandemic produced a collection of seven concise improvisations which have the feel of naked solo performances. Taking advantage of interrupted sleep patterns, many of the tracks on Cloudwalker were laid down in the hour just before dawn, their inspiration distilled from dreams, often with the Moon & Venus smiling through the open backdoor of his cabin.

The first track sets the mood for this nebulous journey. "Cloudwalker and the Ascent" (5:57) the title track opens with the sound of a flute in a big chamber, drones and breath play with symmetry as well as dissonance, like a dream-shape. The fundamental force in the universe stimulating everything from atoms to animals to evolve and incorporate ever greater levels of quality, which can be heard in the cathedral-like depth and echo that haunts this flute, the notes, how distant and how dangerously they sway, the sound flies right up to the very clouds.

The composer reveals that he was inspired by Admiral Richard Byrd’s description of green, forested lands free of ice & snow which the Admiral observed ‘beyond the (north) pole,’ he called this magical and remote place “that enchanted continent in the sky” and the track "Unknownland" (2:45) is a science fiction blending of worlds, a pulsing atmosphere populated with mystical and acoustically astounding electronic flute-birds. This is my favorite track on the album.

Electronic dancing binary jewels near huge ultramarine crashing waves, rose-bedizened ringing bells pulse, "Vistas Beyond" (7:31) expands and encloses the listener inside a breath of warm melodic pulses. The next track's title comes from a Taoist tradition of seeking high, craggy, seemingly inaccessible places for meditation, "Tum Gaon (ascending to higher places)" (10:20). What I hear is a simple drone flute with just enough electronic enhancement, forming long sustained tones. The view of heaven flows mainly from observation and meditation, a single tone to soar and shimmer in the air, breath and open echoey space goes deep, this is the longest meditation on the album.

Maybe this echoey chamber, be it cave or cathedral, is bigger than we expect, the long sustained notes rise into the air on wings. This would be the abode of the Wind. A low drone immediately begins the ascent, very gradual and delicate. "Skybound (free from terrestrial bonds)" (9:20) allows us to imagine the biggest place to find an echo, immersed in the warm, contemplative groove. Seemingly conjured, when all at once afar off a little shining light. The sound sends us straight towards it, flute glowing blue, and there in the midst of the brightness to be seen, and headed for the sky.

Earthy spirits might dream of disappearing into sounds in the heavens, almost blinded by their splendor. "Deep Sky Tones" (5:22) features more of the science fiction electronics, yet also there is an ancient flute vibe, sort of a slow duet between the electronics and the ancient, one side does something slightly different than the other side, but they are both long sustained tones that flicker slightly sometimes, with a layered texture, a reverb feel, bringing to mind mythical entities, moods, and deeper musical meditations.

"Across the Seven Skies" (6:10) the earth trembles beneath and the sky is shaken as if the seven worlds and the seven heavens were mingled together, with almost a folktale feeling. A story told, a track that stands alone, climbing yet higher, spreading thinner & thinner, beyond the atmosphere, into nothingness, like the tempest coming, a massive ghost-cloud. Now our echo chamber goes from a cave to the sky, not just one sky but seven skies. Flutes use the air from our bodies to reach the cosmic force, creating a dreamy genre all its own. I hear several drone instruments blending and sounding in a way that might be similar to the power of the Northern Lights, eclectic blending in a free form and spontaneous air. “Just as the light of a full moon allows us to navigate a path through the darkness, Music allows us to find our way in the dark nights of the Soul.”

Zero Ohms began his musical path around the age of 11 when he began taking clarinet lessons. Four years later, he learned the guitar and got into singing and playing pop and antiwar folk songs. He lists Phil Ochs, Donovan, Richie Havens, the Beatles, the Moody Blues, Leonard Cohen, and Jethro Tull, but seeing and hearing a concert in which Paul Horn accompanied Donovan on the flute changed everything.

A flute produces sound when a stream of air directed across a hole in the instrument creates a vibration of air at the hole, and is sometimes called an edge-blown aerophone projecting marvelous melodies and deep improvs that are matchless, seamless, and timeless, ecstatic spiritual journeys reaching ever upwards.

This album provides a wide and ascending path, a staircase through the forest to the highest terrestrial places to find vistas over lush verdant fields and framed by distant mountain ridges. You might feel like you could wander freely across the top of the absolutely fascinating reliefs and discover hidden gems. Then you realize that this is all made of clouds. Seen from a distance, it looks like a golden sci-fi fantasy, remarkable for a vivid imaginativeness, a gorgeous play of fancy air. Swiftly flies the time, lost in a glimpse into the rich history & culture of an age of awe-inspiring structures intended to honor the first gods.

TRACKS
1 Cloudwalker and the Ascent
2 Unknownland
3 Vistas Beyond
4 Tum Gaon (ascending to higher places)
5 Skybound (free from terrestrial bonds)
6 Deep Sky Tones
7 Across the Seven Skies

LINKS

Multi-platform https://orcd.co/zo-cloudwalker

Spotted Peccary https://spottedpeccary.com/

Shop https://spottedpeccary.com/shop/cloudwalker-and-the-ascent/

Artist page https://spottedpeccary.com/artists/zero-ohms/

Channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCK5Dj1P5S492hrO1cpBw_ew

Bandcamp https://zero-ohms.bandcamp.com/