Few things are as delightful as when a truly remarkable ambient-electronic album crosses my path, and listening to Keith Richie’s Ambient Highways is about as sublime as it gets. Visually interpreted by what just may be the coolest album artwork I’ve seen in a while, Ambient Highways takes the listener on a fascinating voyage from start to finish. Although not derivative, notable comparisons can be drawn to Tangerine Dream, Christopher Franke, John Carpenter, Vangelis and Carbon Based Lifeforms, all of whom Keith cites as musical influences.
Like laser and neon lights flickering and racing across the dark, "Neutrino” opens the album with bubbling sequencers, lush chords, intricately layered textures, and sparse piano sounds. Driven by pensive emotion, this melodically dynamic piece is nonetheless definitively ambient. The mood continues into “V Feeling”, a piece that begins with harp-like strings, followed by vintage and modern instruments, some of which move to the forefront while others remain in the background. Next is the breathtaking “Xenogeneis”, which beautifully unfolds like a spiraling galaxy. This piece in particular exemplifies the album’s overall lonesome, observational quality of being one small person in not just a big world – but a limitless, unknown universe – a sensation that is conveyed throughout. Although it’s nearly impossible to pick a favorite, “Weeping Angels” is especially noteworthy; its title possibly referring to the “Dr. Who” series. However, unlike the Weeping Angels of the popular science-fiction television show, there is nothing terrifying about this piece – although haunting it certainly is! Beginning with a windy drone that gives way to emotionally-stirring chord progressions and a melody reminiscent of a cosmic lullaby, the composition feels like an arrival of sorts. The slightly faster-paced “Keeping the Dream Alive” concludes the album, characterized by gurgling angelic voices and alternating sequencers. An optimistic feeling of moving towards a new destination is conveyed, like catching the first glimpse of early-morning sunlight.
Nestled perfectly in-between sequencer-based electronic and atmospheric space music, Ambient Highways is an exemplary display of just how alive and emotionally-riveting electronic music can be. Although possessing a pronounced cinematic quality throughout, the compositions never become overwrought, instead maintaining a contemplative ambience and ever-present melancholy. An amazing headphone experience that transpires like a personal sojourn of self-reflection and external wonder, Ambient Highways has quickly become a personal favorite of mine. This album is an absolute must-have for fans of ambient, classic electronic, modern electronica and soundtrack music!
~Candice Michelle for Journeyscapes