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Robert Hampson - Répercussions

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Artist: Robert Hampson

Album: Répercussions

Label: Editions Mego

Review date: Jul. 6, 2012

Proof, were it needed, that Loop were more than a standard shoegaze band can be found in the invention and exploration inherent in former guitarist Robert Hampson’s exceptional solo career. In fact, as good as Loop were, Répercussions exists in a completely different universe, far removed from rock tropes, and sits comfortably within the spectrum of modern electro-acoustic and minimal composition.

Répercussions is anchored in the experimental “acousmatic” tradition of legendary Frenchmen Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry, and indeed, the title piece was commissioned by the Groupe de Recherches Musicales. The principle involved is the hefty modification and manipulation of percussive instruments, from gamelan to drums via piano and sheets of metal; the result is a dense cluster of hazy tones that sound like the glitch electronica of Alva Noto or Ryoji Ikeda, stretched out and slowed down until the disparate sound particles start to drift and glide, their percussive impetus turned in on itself. The sonic properties of each element are inverted and masked, making it hard to pick out one from another, their frequencies colliding between deep drones, tinnitus-inducing high pitches and occasional organic interjections. But if that all sounds a bit lofty, Hampson’s main achievement on the titular track is the way he uses the acousmatic tradition to work with atmospheres and even a sense of narrative. The piece builds up incrementally, getting louder and more ominous, as moody piano notes set a tone of subtle, nocturnal disquiet.

“De la Terre à la Lune,” meanwhile, is more firmly conceptual, based around the composer’s interest in NASA missions and films like Solaris and 2001, A Space Odyssey. “De la Terre à la Lune” is more direct than “Répercussions,” featuring growling undertones, mechanical shudders and shimmers, and ominous passages of near silence that echo the sinister reverberations of deep space, whilst occasional bleeps and skrees suggest the mechanisms of nearly sentient machinery. The concept may be nebulous, but that doesn’t stop images of 2001’s murderous super-computer HAL popping into mind. The final track, originally released on a separate 10”, is a more reposed collaboration with Mego labelmate Cindytalk, an artist who perhaps most closely shares Hampson’s considered, emotionally evocative and understated approach to experimental sound manipulation.

By Joseph Burnett

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