AMN Reviews: Robert Scott Thompson – Arcana (2014; Relaxed Machinery) / Repeated by Dreams (2014; Aucourant Records)

When one discusses electronic and ambient music, reference artists are typically Klaus Schulze, Brian Eno, Steve Roach, Robert Rich, and Alio Die among others. But every so often, we are reminded that this genre is a vast expanse, with much to explore.

Robert Scott Thompson is a formally-educated composer of ambient music who has been recording for over 25 years. His output is voluminous, and often incorporates aspects of electroacoustic and acousmatic music, modern classical, and electronica. Not being familiar with many of his works, I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with two of his more recent releases.

coverAt first blush, Arcana seems like it shares common territory with Roach and Schulze, featuring sweeping synths and pulsating waves of soft sound. But Thompson adds crumbling, distorted structures (shades of Natasha Barrett, perhaps) and clanking percussion into the mix. These more jarring aspects are not dominant nor a constant throughout, but instead add darkness and tension to his pieces.

While Arcana’s foreground music borders on simple ambience at times, subtle discordance and shimmering patterns of sounds result in an ominous, disturbing overall offering. As an example, the fifth track, Unwoven, features slowly-played chimes and tuned percussion, with a synth line and high-frequency, electroacoustics to round things out. Zero Point Field, on the other hand, is a 29-minute Roach-styled drone.  In a sense, Arcana is divided between a more acousmatic style on its first half, and a more traditional ambient approach on its second.

coverRepeated by Dreams is arguably the more avant-garde album of the two, featuring processed string instruments and effects, voices, and incidental percussion along with synth walls and textures. Themes slowly evolve and fade like haunted, sunlit landscapes of resonances. Novum Organum: Progressive Stages of Certainty, the 35-minute centerpiece of the album, is where Thompson takes the material on a left turn. On this track, the album transitions to a modern classical composition, not unlike the musique concrete that has traditionally been produced by France’s Groupe de Recherches Musicales (GRM).  However, the end of the track incorporates bouncy elements of electronica.  The remaining tracks combine ambiance and electroacoustics, using background drones with foreground effects.

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Free Jazz Blog Reviews

Louis Sclavis
Louis Sclavis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From Free Jazz:

Emil Strandberg – More Music For Trumpet, Guitar And Bass (Bandcamp, 2014) ****
Myra Melford – Snowy Egret (Enja, 2015) ****
Bande à Part – Caixa-Prego (Creative Sources, 2014) ****
Konstrukt ‎– Live at Tarcento Jazz (Holidays Records, 2015) ****
Konstrukt & William Parker ‎– Live at NHKM (Holidays Records, 2015) ***½
Louis Sclavis Quartet – Silk and Salt Melodies (ECM, 2014) ****
Leap of Faith – Regenerations (Evil Clown, 2015) ****
Natsuki Tamura & Alexander Frangenheim – Nax (Creative Sources, 2014) ****

The Bridge Collective Chicago and Milwaukee Performances

Joëlle Léandre at Cornelia street cafe Photo: ...
Joëlle Léandre

From The Bridge:

Chicago
April 27 – May 10 2015

Sonic Communion [The Bridge #1]
Jean-Luc Cappozzo – trumpet, flugelhorn
Douglas R. Ewart – woodwinds, sound objects
Joëlle Léandre – double bass
Bernard Santacruz – double bass
Michael Zerang – drums, percussion

The Bridge #8
Ernest Khabeer Dawkins – saxophones
Antonin-tri Hoang – alto saxophone, clarinet
Mars Williams – saxophones, clarinet
Samuel Silvant – drums

The Bridge, transatlantic network for creative music, is proud to announce its upcoming exploratory tour in Chicago and Milwaukee from April 27th to May 10th, 2015. The Bridge will also inaugurate its record label The Bridge Sessions, in partnership with Rogue Art, with the release of recordings from the Sonic Communion tour. Planet Earth Folk Song, a full track from the upcoming album, is available for preview on our soundcloud page: https://soundcloud.com/across-the-bridges/sonic-communion-planet-earth-folk-song

Public Events:

4/27 – The Arts Incubator
The Bridge #8 – 7pm, 2 sets, $10

4/28 – Relax Attack Jazz Series at The Whistler
The Bridge #8 + guests – 9:30pm & 10:45pm (w/ guests), no cover
http://whistlerchicago.com/events/relax-attack-jazz-series-bridge-present-ernest-dawkins-mars-williams-antonin-tri-hoang-samuel

4/29 – Constellation
Sonic Communion [The Bridge #1] & The Bridge #8 double bill & Sonic Communion CD release party! 9:30pm, $10
http://www.constellation-chicago.com/event/817831-bridge-8-ernest-dawkins-chicago/

4/30 – Comfort Music Series at Comfort Station
Sonic Communion [The Bridge #1] + Lou Mallozzi (electronics) – 7pm, $10 suggested donation

4/30 – Doug Fogelson Studio
The Bridge #8 – 9pm, 2 sets, $10 suggested donation

5/1 TBC

5/2 – Corbett vs. Dempsey Gallery
Joëlle Léandre solo – 2pm, no cover
http://www.corbettvsdempsey.com/2015/01/16/joelle-leandre/

5/2 – Logan Arts Center
Sonic Communion [The Bridge #1] performance & discussion – 7pm, no cover

5/3 – MCA Chicago
The musicians Sonic Communion [The Bridge #1] will participate in Renée Baker’s Sunyata: Towards Absolute Emptiness – 7:30pm, $28/22/10
http://www2.mcachicago.org/event/renee-baker-creative-music-summit-sunyata-towards-absolute-emptiness/

5/4 – The Black Cinema House at Rebuild Foundation
Sonic Communion [The Bridge #1] + guests live soundtrack of home movies and found footage – 7pm, no cover
http://rebuild-foundation.squarespace.com/black-cinema-house/

5/4 – Beat Kitchen
Antonin-Tri Hoang and Samuel Silvant will participate in Extraordinary Popular Delusion’s Monday night set – 9pm, no cover
http://www.beatkitchen.com/

5/5 – Relax Attack Jazz Series at The Whistler
The Bridge #8 + guests – 9:30pm & 10:45pm (w/ guests), no cover
http://whistlerchicago.com/events/relax-attack-jazz-series-bridge-present-ernest-dawkins-mars-williams-antonin-tri-hoang-samuel

5/6 – Strobe Recording Studio
The Bridge #8 recorded public performance – 8:30pm, 2 sets, $15 suggested donation

5/7 – Elastic Arts Foundation
Sonic Communion [The Bridge #1] + guests – 9pm, 2 sets, $10
http://elasticarts.org/event/improv-7th-may-2015/

5/8 – Outer Ear Series at Experimental Sound Studio
Sonic Communion [The Bridge #1] – 8pm, $10
http://www.experimentalsoundstudio.org/pages/outer_ear/177.php

5/9 – Diasporal Rhythms
Sonic Communion [The Bridge #1] acoustic apartment performance – 12pm, no cover

5/9 – Participatory Music Coalition at Transition East
The French musicians will collaborate with the Participatory Music Coalition

5/10 – Alternating Currents Live at Woodland Pattern, Milwaukee
Sonic Communion [The Bridge #1] – 7pm, $8
http://www.woodlandpattern.org/performances/