AMN Reviews: Robert Scott Thompson – Phonotopological (2018; Acousmatique)

Electroacoustic composer and synthesist Robert Scott Thompson is back with an acousmatic recording. Phonotopological consists of 125 musical “elements” distributed across the album’s 13 tracks, without repetition. The elements are sound recordings, each processed to the point of rendering their respective sources indecipherable.

Despite this rather detailed compositional technique, the resulting soundscapes, while alien, would not be out of place amongst electronic / ambient music or musique concrète. Thompson layers several of these patterns together at any time. They vary from sounding vaguely synth-like to discretized, sequenced samples. Some resemble water or waves, others a storm of insects, and yet others electrical interference, bells, or microtonal percussive units. Indeed, it as if Thompson has invented a unique form of programmatic synthesizer with its own distinct palette.

In terms of feel, there are moments of brightness mixed in with ominous substrates. Rapid oscillations combine with features moving in geological time frames. Throughout all of this, the only constant is change – while the theme is consistent, Phonotopological‘s constituent parts are in a neverending, non-repeating search. Without being unduly jarring, the rattling, buzzing, and droning continuously offers up surprises. Highly recommended.

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