Robert Hampson - Vectors

Touch # TO:71 CD in Digipak - 3 tracks

Artwork & design by Jon Wozencroft

1. Umbra 2. Ahead – Only The Stars 3. Dans le Lointain

Umbra (2006) - is the second commission for GRM. This 16 channel piece had it’s debut performance on the Acousmonium - GRM’s speaker orchestra - at Salle Olivier Messiaen, Maison de Radio France, Paris “The umbra (Latin: shadow) is the darkest part of a shadow. From within the umbra, the source of light is completely concealed by the occulting body. In astronomy, an observer in the umbra is said to be in the shadows experiencing total eclipse.? This phenomenon is a direct influence on the work in the sense of the way that sounds are cast in the shadow of others, slowly becoming more distinct and featured as the piece progresses, materialising and then casting a shadow of their own.

Ahead – Only The Stars (2007) - commissioned by Vibrö for a performance at the Planetarium de Poitiers in 7.1 Surround ratio. Inspired and dedicated to the Astronauts of the NASA Mercury Missions space program and possibly the greatest pilot ever, Chuck Yeager. After the introduction of jets blasting across the soundstage, the piece is then interspersed with radio transmissions (Com. bleeps and static, with dialogue removed) that form the framework.

Dans le Lointain (2008) - the third commission for GRM. A 2 channel Stereo piece, it’s debut performance on the Acousmonium - GRM’s speaker orchestra - at Salle Olivier Messiaen, Maison de Radio France, Paris. Sounds of Shortwave radios, recorded by Hampson in the very early 80’s and recently rediscovered on a cassette, are manipulated through very traditional techniques utilised by early tape experimental works of the GRM and collected with more modern forms of digital manipulation. The title (In The Distance) refers to the distance radio signals can travel, but also the distance of time that elapsed since the shortwave recordings were made on a four track recorder and dubbed onto cassette by Hampson around 1981/82.


Brainwashed (US):

While he first made a name for himself with the balls-out psych-rock of Loop, Robert Hampson always had an inclination towards the esoteric and avant garde. The slide away from rock into musique concrèt for him is pretty obvious to anyone familiar with his Main project, which began as a krautrock-inspired industrial band and ended with the pure sonic abstraction that has segued into this new solo work. Rather than working with guitar (as Loop and Main were based upon), these works, two of which were commissioned by GRM, instead allow for a wider sonic palate to be used, and the results are captivating.

"Umbra" originates from a 16 track piece from 2006, and is not a drastic departure in sound for any who followed Hampson’s trek as Main; it retains his fondness for vast soundscapes of alien insectoid chattering, here met with a low frequency bass rumble and occasional fragments of pure tones. While it stays consistent with mood and feel, the dynamics of the track change frequently; once a set of textures have been allowed to develop, they’ll be abruptly cut-off and then replaced with a new set to rebuild from scratch. The source of the sounds is anything but clear, but found sound percussion, objects and metal objects vibrating, and the occasional loud crash or sharp crack are recurrent motifs throughout.

Hampson’s work here is both figuratively and literally linked to astronomy, which has been one of his passions since the early days in Main (I know as a teenager listening to those releases, I had to do some searching to figure out what those track titles were all about). Rather than merely conjuring images of the universe by the titles, the tracks on Vectors actually use this as a source of the sound. The middle piece, "Ahead-Only the Stars," is dedicated to the astronauts of the Mercury space program, as well as pilot Chuck Yeager. The opening clearly showcases the flight of jets across the sky, which later becomes the underlying sonic element buried under layers of effects and processing, becoming a looped, almost rhythmic passage of noise. On top of this are bits of static and radio transmission beeps, all with any actual voices removed. The departure of the human element from this technology gives a much different sensation than if it had been left in, and the fragments around the communications make for interesting sounds all their own.

The final piece, "Dans Le Lointain," takes the space concepts in a different direction, and is constructed from cassettes recorded of shortwave radio transmissions from the early 1980s. These tapes were then treated with traditional tape manipulation, as well as digital effects, and the result is a sprawling, 20 minute track of high pitched chimes and static loops. The mix as a whole emphasizes the treble and melds metallic rattles and percussive shaking with found noises and static loops, with the occasional soft melodic pulse, giving some sense of traditional "music" within the space. The closing textural static is some of the best I’ve heard on record, with a crunch that is almost tactile.

This first "true" solo album by Robert Hampson does not really stray far from what anyone would expect who is familiar with the later works of Main, but does show Hampson pushing his sonic vehicle even farther into the dark regions of space. The combination of early tape music, modern digital experimentation, and even a subtle smattering of his "rock" background makes for a sonic excursion that is among the most engaging works of electro-acoustic music I have heard this year. [Creaig Dunton]

Boomkat (UK):

Perhaps best known for his work as Main (with releases across esteemed labels like Sub Rosa, Fat Cat, (K-RAA-K)³ and Tigerbeat6), Robert Hampson arrives at Touch with three longform acousmatic compositions, two of which were commissioned by the prestigious and historic GRM (Groupe De Recherches Musicales), whose studio Hampson used for the mixing and mastering processes. So many of electronic music's earliest, most important works were devised and constructed at this venue, with artists like Pierre Schaefer, Bernard Parmagianni, Luc Ferrari and Iannis Xenakis all having played their part in the GRM's rich heritage. The tone and range of Hampson's music is very much in acknowledgement of these founding fathers of musique concrète, revelling in the sheer joy of sound as it's methodically and beautifully pulled apart and reassembled. Taking as his starting point a mixture of incredibly rich, tuned sonorities and more tactile, texture-based timbres, Hampson's music sounds and feels more like a biopsy of sound than a treatment of it: it's this approach that places his work in the same sort of lineage as his GRM forebears, seemingly never adding any external synthetic elements or instrumentation, instead navigating and revealing the inner workings of his sound recordings using a delicate electronic scalpel. 'Umbra' is an especially remarkable thing, packing vast amounts of auditory information into its seventeen minutes, working its way through a continuous flow of complex dissections. The end result is an immaculately well-produced virtual voyage for the ears. The next composition, 'Ahead - Only The Stars' was commissioned by Vibrö for a 7.1 Surround performance at the Planetarium de Poitiers. Inspired by Chuck Yeager and the astronauts of NASA's Mercury Missions the piece introduces itself with the sound of jet engines, going on to embrace a wordless trickle of radio transmissions, shattered into isolated bleeps, a rainbow of static and various other sounds tweezed from the stratosphere. It's another great piece of work, beautifully conveying a sense of emptiness, while skillfully intermingling unearthly noises with telecommunicaitons by-products - you get a real sense of encroaching on the frontiers of sound. Finally, 'Dans Le Lointain' finds Hampson returning to GRM for a rediscovery of his early '80s shortwave recordings, all manipulated within the traditional spirit of early tape music birthed within the hallowed halls of the Maison De Radio France. This is an album that sets itself apart from a great many contemporary electroacoustic albums both in terms of its sublime audio quality and its rigorous and loving adherence to the more academic strands of electronic music pioneered in the 20th century....

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Robert Hampson - Vectors

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Track 1:  Ahead, Only the Stars

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