Boomkat Product Review:
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.