AMN Reviews: Robert Scott Thompson – Messages from Maggie’s Garden (2019; Aucourant Records)

Messages from Maggie’s Garden is something of a departure for ambient/electroacoustic composer Robert Scott Thompson. Here, he teams with clarinetist F. Gerard Errante on four tracks that combine that acoustic instrument with Thompson’s electronic collages. The first three of which, Canto (de Las Sombras), Widening Gyre, and Passage, where composed between 1996 and 2010 and have been released on previous albums. The 22-minute title track is a purely electroacoustic effort created from these other three.

Canto (de Las Sombras) contrasts tense drones, processed sounds, and crashing percussive elements with slowly-played and ominous clarinet passages. Widening Gyre takes a more discordant stance, with emphasis on the processed samples, metallic crackling, and more angular flute lines. Passage is more pastoral with structures evolving at a reduced tempo. This eventually picks up into a set of bright drones with manufactured animal sounds in the background and flute themes that border on the playful.

Messages from Maggie’s Garden is a tense piece with oscillating and pockmarked walls that are both forbidding and strangely convoluted. The rattling electroacoustics are more dominant than the drones, while the dynamics of the piece exceed that of the other three. Indeed, there is a quiet detail to this recording, with echoes of the flute immersed within both spiky and ambient sections.

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