Fade   CB0020

The music

In three connected sections, Fade offers a series of harmonic “moments” of various densities and complexities and timbres and lengths. Throughout the work, these moments, like elements in a mobile, are in a constant state of changing perspective.

The composer-performer

Rick Cox is a composer and skilled multi-instrumentalist whom guitarist/composer Ry Cooder called “the hidden master of the crepuscular and the diaphanous.” Cox was an early explorer/developer of “prepared electric guitar” techniques His concert pieces, which often employ himself (electric guitar, woodwinds, and/or electronics) in the company of other instrumentalists, have been performed throughout the U.S. and recorded on the Cold Blue , Grenadilla, Advance, and Raptoria Caam labels. British music publication The Wire wrote of Cox’s often lush and beautiful soundscapes for electric guitar and other instruments: “His enveloping harmonies are less innocent than they first appear. Prettiness with a tough core.”

As a performer, he can be heard on recent recordings by jazz/new-music trumpeter Jon Hassell (including Fascinoma and Maarifa Street), with whom he has also toured for the past few years, and on such popular film scores by Thomas Newman as The Shawshank Redemption, The Horse Whisperer, and American Beauty. Cox has also worked with Ry Cooder, arranging, composing and performing on the film scores Last Man Standing and Wim Wenders’ End of Violence. Cox’s own film scores include Inside Monkey Zetterland and Corrina, Corrina. A founding member of the improvisation group Tokyo 77 (recorded on the InTone label), he performs with various new music, avant-rock, and jazz-oriented ensembles.

The performers

Thomas Newman is best known as the composer of numerous highly regarded, Oscar-nominated film scores, including American Beauty, Lemony Snicket’s…, Finding Nemo, Road to Perdition, Erin Brockovich, The Horse Whisperer, The Shawshank Redemption, Scent of a Woman, Phenomenon, and Fried Green Tomatoes. He and Cox released a jointly composed and performed album on Cold Blue, 35 Whirlpools Below Sound (CB0040), and he performed as a pianist on Cox’s earlier Cold Blue CD, Maria Falling Away (CB0006).

Peter Freeman is a bassist/producer/engineer and sound processing-guru who has performed and recorded with a wide range of both mainstream and experimental artists: from Seal, Nile Rodgers and Shawn Colvin to John Cale, Sussan Deyhim, Elliot Sharp and Jon Hassell. Most recently, he co-produced Jon Hassell’s CD Maarifa Street.


“From its first inquisitive augmented chord, Rick Cox’s Fade is hard to pin down…. Edges and contours are all smoothed away, the music insinuating much more than it says…. But Cox’s elusiveness soon becomes subtlety, and I came to admire his way of opening up spaces and filling them—patiently, softly—with music. . . . The word ‘ambient’ has served too long—or so Fade seems to say—as a catchall for quiet and dominantly electronic music of an impressionist bent…. Cox has more in common with, say, the classical Japanese shakuhachi repertory than he does with Eno…. The piece is a relaxing and most enjoyable 25 minutes, a gentle aural makeover. —Arved Ashby, Gramophone

“Merging the composer’s electric guitar with Thomas Newman’s piano and Peter Freeman’s bass and electronics, Rick Cox’s 25-minute Fade mesmerizes as it subtly evolves through three connecting sections. The musicians rarely state themes explicitly but rather tangentially allude to them, with their individual playing coalescing into dreamy masses of blurry sound. Accompanying info likens these series of harmonic ‘moments’ to elements in a mobile, a perfect analogy for the work’s deft commingling of stasis and development. When Newman’s minimal piano playing appears alongside hazy electronic washes, one might be reminded of the opening piece on Eno’s Music For Airports (with Robert Wyatt in piano), but Fade eschews repetition for perpetual metamorphosis. Freeman’s electronics add a shimmering ambiance to the work while Cox’s ‘prepared electric guitar’ conveys a translucent, twilight quality.” —Ron Schepper, Signal to Noise magazine (summer ’05) and Textura (May ‘05)

“Those familiar with the movie American Beauty may recognize Rick Cox’s cloudy elegies and composed sorrows; Fade is yet another classy release by this American artist working in the realms of corporeal abandon and calm desolation. Scored for electric guitar (played by Cox himself), piano (Thomas Newman) and bass (Peter Freeman), this 25-minute minor masterpiece is a continuous stimulation of our most introverted melancholy, through an ever-shifting tonal landscape whose radiance carries the same intensity level of those anxious dreams in which undecipherable languages and distant scraps of illusory harmony ensure we’re breathing heavily when we awake. The closing section is a separate celestial caress, a totally functional coda to one of the most engrossing records this year so far—and one of those instances when, in terms of duration, less is not more.”—Massimo Ricci, Paris Transatlantic

“I admit it. The little sticker on the shrink-wrap declaring Rick Cox ‘a hidden master of the crepuscular and the diaphanous’ totally hooked me. This rather antediluvian accolade brought to you by Ry Cooder. And it turns out he’s spot-on…. As a matter of fact, a Cooder-aura (or a mystical third hand as it were) even manages to tint Cox’s 25-minute Fade, a languid rumination which could easily surrogate for one of Cooder’s broodier film scores in a pinch…. Cox is no stranger to the moody world of film music. He even enlisted a well-known colleague, Thomas Newman, to sprinkle some sparse ivory tinkling over his sonic caldron. While the meditative din of plinks and drones simmer away, the boiling point is finally reached during the unexpected moments when everything suddenly recedes into silence, only to gently bubble up again.” —NewMusicBox (American Music Center)

“[Cox’s] earlier music often gave the impression of being heard across distances so vast that only the merest traces remained; sometimes one received its sounds as if through filters that stripped them of such ‘spatial’ properties as time; and sometimes the music seemed to occupy the internal spaces of memory or dream. His new piece alludes to that terrain. Written for electric guitar, piano, bass and signal processors, Fade is a work of gorgeous, delicately shimmering textures, its (mainly electronic) timbres enlivened by subtle coruscations, internal divergences and sparse, intermittent interjections from the piano. The work’s textures are sheet-like, enveloping, often glimmering with the memory of tonal-era consonances, harmonies and melodies. Hearing the piece is an experience rather like poring over old, once-loved photos: the contours have lost all definition, the colors have faded or mingled (Cox’s title is suggestive here). A trace is all that is left of the original content; its place is now occupied (Cox’s music seems to suggest) by a paradoxical combination of nostalgia and fulfillment.” —Christopher Ballantine, International Record Review

“Rick Cox and Peter Freeman create a sensuous soundscape, while Thomas Newman inserts occasional quiet tuned percussion comments. This is quite an amazing floating sound world that reminds me of Brian Eno’s recent work.” —David Beardsley, Downtown Music Gallery Newsletter

“Cox’s Fade makes a sensible follow-up to Gann’s Long Night. The latter’s simple piano textures are followed by Cox’s more complicated ambiance of electric guitar, piano (here played by film composer Thomas Newman), bass, and signal processing. At times, the textures are relatively thin, and the identities of the instruments remain distinct, but it is Cox’s obvious pleasure to combine and alter them in such as way as to suggest a single hybrid instrument. Almost halfway through the piece, the music reaches a short climax in which the bass dominates. This has the effect of bursting open the piece’s apparent soundstage: suddenly, the music seems to surround the listener, where earlier it had existed within in a more closely defined space. Overall, Fade suggests the image of attenuation, and of musical substances continuously being poured from one container into another. Hard outlines are rejected in favor of softer and more abstract boundaries between the work’s horizontal sections and vertical layers.” —Raymond Tuttle, Classical.Net

Fade is a beauty…. The music is somewhere between electric and acoustic, a shadowland in between. The guitar plays sustained sounds via electronic means, the bass fills some of the gaps and the piano is in a free role…slowly passing by, gliding between moods.” —Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly (The Netherlands)

“Rick’s guitar sound is one of gentleness and poise. His overall sound is one that can easily be compared to little sparkling notes being left behind for people to observe, as they drop on the sidewalk after a heavy rainstorm. Thomas Newman’s piano seems to be buried in the mix, but when it does stick out, he delivers power with a single chord, a single touch. I have a feeling that Peter Freeman’s contribution to this release is insurmountable. The aura he gives this record is comparable to covering yourself with a blanket when you take a nap on the couch. It’s that comfort and a level of warmth. This EP is like a shimmering fireplace on a long, cold winter night. The warmth of Fade is sure to stay with you long after the CD has finished.” —Tom Sekowski, Gaz-Eta (Poland)

“Rick Cox’s Fade is one of a number of Cold Blue releases that feature beautiful and direct production that perfectly suits the composers’ careful post-minimalism. On Fade, Thomas Newman’s tonal piano chords ring out for what seems like minutes, while Cox’s electric guitar and Peter Freeman’s bass and electronics emit sustained textures that swirl around the piano. Like many other Cold Blue records, Fade is minimalist in that it clearly comes from the classical tradition and features a relatively small number of musical materials. It is post-minimalist in that it doesn’t include many of the usual features of the early minimalism of Philip Glass or Steve Reich, such as phasing or a steady beat. Instead, Cox prefers to savor the tone quality of each sound, and the result is an amorphous quality that could almost be described as ambient or atmospheric…. [T]he closest point of reference for Fade isn’t a piece of classical music. It’s Brian Eno’s Music For Airports. Fade is the more dramatic of the two pieces, but both feature sustained sounds wrapped around pretty, slow-moving piano parts. Fade is a worthy addition to Cold Blue’s recent series of EP-length releases.” —Charlie Wilmoth, Dusted Magazine

“This CD single by Cox starts with floating, enshrouding electronics that almost makes you feel as if you’re leaving this world behind. That isn’t necessarily a good feeling but it’s certainly an intriguing one. One thinks of Tibetan bardo, exile-even death-but none of those states quite gets at what’s happening here. Think of Eno’s 70’s and 80’s slow-moving bits but think more substance and richness. If this sounds snooze-worthy, it’s not by a long shot. Actually, it’s oddly comforting, a place where the worst has already happened and a resounding calm has set in. I recommend it without hesitation.” —Richard Grooms, The Improvisor

Fade is an interesting combination of elements…weaving an unreal environment.”Amazing Sounds (Spain)

“Seldom does an album’s accompanying artwork (in this case, the back cover of the digipack) so perfectly capture the essence of the music contained within. Rick Cox’s Fade is a single twenty-five minute tone poem that paints a muted, somber and evocative portrait of fading light, shadows, and emotional ambiguity, manifested through sparse melancholic minimalism by Cox (on electric guitar, sometimes heavily processed), Thomas Newman (discretely applied piano) and Peter Freeman (bass and signal processors)…. Haunting without being the least bit pretentious or precious, Fade slowly seeps into your consciousness in the same way that one is vaguely aware of a growing darkness or a subtle change in the humidity as a storm approaches…. There is such a high degree of intelligence and care injected into the recording that ignoring it, while possible, is to miss out on the EP’s strengths…. Cox’s wavery guitar textures break apart and then coalesce around the bare piano notes with an undercurrent of subtle electronics supplying enough additional coloring to impart a shade of mystery…. Fade is the soundtrack to a cold November afternoon, but not the normal softly glowing nostalgia of crisp autumn and falling leaves. Instead, the music evokes memories of impending barren emptiness and the inevitability of the approaching cruelty of winter, yet infused with a palpable sense of comfort since this is simply nature cycling through the years…. I wholeheartedly recommend Fade.” —Bill Binkelman, Wind and Wire

“Melancholic and drifting in the most pure Cold Blue tradition, Fade is one of the titles of the influential Californian label where electronics play a prominent role. The sparse, delicate playing of the three instruments is blurred and diluted by processors in a drifting soundscape, reminding at times of Eno’s masterpiece Music for Airports. Music for bright afternoons with lots of clouds.” —Eugenio Maggi, Chain D.L.K. (Italy)

“Cox’s combination of gradually evolving enveloped guitar notes and chords, bass tone envelopes, and isolated piano soundings emerging from a tonally sustained landscape has that natural flow and a more processual unfolding than it has punctuated discrete sonic events. There are no jagged angles as much as gradual curvatures and singular directions. The result is like a dream of floating in space, like a space walk, slowly drifting in an endless sea of nothingness with no set destination. It is extraordinarily spatial in that way, very calming but filled with sonic interest. There is nothing programmatic as there might be in a New Age work that aims at the same effect. Here the musical ambience precedes the mood inducement. It is first and foremost a poem of tonal color. And an excellent one at that.”—Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review

“The instruments improvise around each other’s sustained dreamy tones, patiently weaving a labyrinthine celestial atmosphere. Shadows of melodies appear and disappear. Rhythm is non-existent. Subsonic events are as important as louder ones. Improvisation prevails over composition. This is austere Zen-like meditation whose only constraints are some natural laws of note gravitation. The guitar and the bass draw nebulae of sounds together, while the piano emits tinkling passages of notes that hint at a looser world of music.” —Piero Scaruffi’s History of the Avant Garde (Italy)

“Here is the sound of dusk and early morning, a shimmering, echoing drone-based composition that gets better with each and every listen.” —Rupert Loydell, Tangents (UK)

“On his Fade CD, guitarist Rick Cox creates night music filled with echoes and murmurs, in the shape of a single piece stretching out into complete silence.” — Gérard Nicollet, Octopus (France)

Fade…an expansive and fertile sonic landscape that overwhelms all, rife with unusual sounds and blankets of warm ambient fog. Understated melodic fragments brought in via piano dissolve within the evolving shimmering ambience of the overall process. The density ebbs and flows from silence to opposite extremes, keeping the piece interesting, while fortifying a true improvisational feeling that the listener can easily get lost within.” —Peter Thelan, Exposé magazine