Intermittent D.I.Y. music / art / life writing projects.

Month: February, 2013

A Discussion of Robert Hampson / MAIN Featuring Some Nice Words about Repercussions CD + DVD

I’ve been intensely fond of Robert Hampson’s recordings since about 1998, when -after about a year of off-and-on listening- I finally grasped what was going on with the two disc set Hz under his project name of MAIN.


I was a huge fan of My Bloody Valentine at the time, and had been searching for any other recording artists or bands that were said to be similar.

ImageMain was listed often as being similar, so after seeing this beguiling two disc set on the shelf (conveniently among a few other MAIN releases, which I later bought up…) several times at the Best Buy (who used to have some oddities in their selection…sadly now that selection of oddities is nearly absent…Frank Zappa is about the oddest you’ll probably find. = don’t even bother looking. Nothing against Frank Zappa.) I bought it.

My first listen was one of the most surprising listens I had ever had up to that time. Unpleasantly surprising. My 16 year old mind was virgin to the idea that a piece of music could have such a slow and subtle build, and such eerie, unearthly-yet-hyper-earthly vibrations about it. I was into experimental rock music, and hadn’t yet done more than scratch the surface of anything outside of that realm. I didn’t get it, and didn’t know how to think or feel about it. I did at least feel as if there was something yet to be gained from listening to it, and held onto it, periodically listening to different parts that had caught me on previous listens. After some months of continued incomprehension, I lent it to my best friend, who lived just across the street. He took quite a shining to it. On a late night during the time the album was in his possession, we were listening to it and it finally caught me, absorbed me, and I began the process of absorbing it, which -thanks to the substantial complexity of the work- continues to this day.

I started listening to it frequently. The guitar work was fascinating, angular, strange, deep. The meditative quality of the ambient / electro-acoustic / industrial compositions was singularly direct for me. There seemed to be no pretension whatsoever; all of the intended ideas and emotion piped directly from the creator to my being with no slowage. Mysterious tonal phrases repeated at variable intervals, reminding me of the sounds of insects, animals, and air movements in nature. Guitars were processed and edited in ways I had never imagined, and evoked new thoughts and ideas in me. Time was used as a compositional element, with various swells – sometimes sudden and almost frightening – arriving after carefully weighed spans – to segue into the next eternal / finite plateau of mesmerizing atmosphere. Recordings of various natural acoustic sounds, wood / metal / porcelain knocking or scraping are placed carefully, enhancing the palette of sounds, making the compositions resonate on more psychic levels for the listener. (Though this tactic is electro-acoustic music 101, it was then utterly revelatory for me.) The minimalistic yet overwhelming and reality-bending songs were really where I was sucked in, namely “Corona I”, “Maser I”, and my favorite – “Neper II”. These are all pieces based on simple repetitious loops with some distant echoed or otherwise obfuscated singing, which was a general approach used often on any of the MAIN albums with “songs”, such as Motion Pool or Dry Stone Feed. The punctuating of these two brimming discs with song-like items makes it a bit sugary in comparison to Hampson’s newer work under his own name. This (songs / song-like pieces) is just a general trait of about 40% of his work as MAIN, as is the inclusion of guitars as a sound source to the tune of about 70% guitars included. These aspects have been removed (though he has mentioned that he will likely begin using guitars again), but the same emotional climate of deep contemplation and wonder applies across the board to all of his recordings, including even a portion of Loop’s recorded output (See “Shot With a Diamond” from A Gilded Eternity). I strenuously recommend any and all recordings under the name MAIN or Robert Hampson as being some of the most intuitive, connected, beautiful, and thoughtfully composed experimental music in existence. At the very least, his is a standout voice well worth listening to among the current prominent experimental / electro-acoustic creators. I will now digress from the lengthy, indulgent preface and move on to discuss one of his most recent items.


Robert Hampson – Repercussions CD + 5.1 DVD (Editions Mego)

It’s great. Especially the 5.1 disc, which has the same 3 pieces in 5.1 that the audio disc holds in regular 2 channel stereo (It would have been really great if there was an exclusive piece or two on one or both of the discs…but I do not look in gift horsies’ mouths.) I had read somewhere a few years ago that he had been doing work with 7.1 or 5.1, and was of course piqued to hear any of it, and now am pleased to have had the experience. There’s an innate 3-dimensional quality to Hampson’s recordings which is of course furthered by adding more listening channels. The mixing is done with attention to the purpose of the music, with no over-indulgence or distastefully opulent use of 5.1. Sounds move patiently through the listening field, and the chosen paths of motion work appropriately to illuminate their meanings. Electronically generated sounds are mingled with various acoustic sounds, percussive, textural, earthy, sometimes tonal in nature. Field recordings of atmospheres and tactile frictions come and go against droning backgrounds and incidental flourishes of manipulated audio. In a lot of ways this is exactly what anyone familiar would expect from any Robert Hampson recording, but such that it’s not likely that one would be left wanting. There is a wealth of variety in the sound sources, with an impressive selection of fascinating field recordings emphasizing -of course- texture. The manipulation of various sounds is specialized and truly transforms the audio in unique ways, rather than adding an easily identified layer on top of an easily identified sound. There is tension and release at mixed paces, including what I would note as being a Robert Hampson staple; the crescendo and sudden drop-off of a wave of sound highlighted -especially towards the peak- with high-frequency tones. He includes some new instruments; piano, accordian?, drum, bells. He is trying new things and his work is maturing, becoming wiser.

Of Repercussions I say that it’s not to be missed in either its 2 or 5.1 channel forms, but as evidenced by my big fat gush of a preface I’m kind of biased. I wonder if anybody else who purchased their own copy had the same experience as I did with the cover art being difficult to get the discs out of, and / or coming completely unglued after about one month of ownership in dry and cool conditions? I will glue it back together, and getting the discs out isn’t impossible, just a little annoying. I do appreciate the minimal use of plastic, but the packaging gets a C- and a grumble. Mr. Hampson does not cease to inspire and impress me. His creativity comes from a true connection and earnestness, otherwise the music would not -could not- affect me at cell-level as it does.

Zome Tapes

Zome Tapes is a label out of Normal, Ilinois run by Hastas. I’ve got a small stack of tapes from them that I’ve been enjoying one by one. They have a good ear and apparently there’s some pretty good experimental stuff going on in Normal/Bloomington, such that they actually have something to document & release.


Tired Light – an intoxicated telling of a never-happened history C30-

Two very lullaby-like sides of peaceful guitar atmosphere. One guitar played through some vibrato and reverb in meandering spirals around a relatively small center of orbit. There’s not a lot more to say about this tape, but that’s not a bad thing. This is the kind of tape that provides a simple, constant atmosphere with a solid mood that you can whip out when you need it. It’s serene, nostalgic, a little bit playful, thoughtful, gentle. Plenty enjoyable.

 ImageSpilt Milk Vol. 1 art zine –

This is a really cool art zine by Kyle Riley, Zome Tapes operator and Hastas person. This is a collection of really great illustrations. It’s got a free-jazz / afrobeat looseness to its execution, with some psychedelic tastes. The style reminds me of the cartoon ‘Superjail’, which if you have not yet seen I would highly recommend – being one of the most remarkably excellent and strange new cartoons to be seen on the Adult Swim. Everything is amorphous, ready to change shape or disintegrate and shoot away from you into the distance or gush toward you and block out your field of vision with skittering vibrant color and shape blobs.

ImageImageI am partial to zines that have at least a partial thematic / visual / linear storyline / ideologic continuity. SpILt Milk, which for some reason I thought was SpLIt Milk for the first day and a half that I had it, fulfills this preference for me while remaining novel and funny.

ImagePsychological content is picked up and played with, with scarcely visible (as not to trip, distract, or irritate the spectator) yet existent (or are they?) fibrous roots leading down (or up?) to the author’s psychic ground of inner turmoils, contemplations, ideologies, whimsical imaginings, fears, ambitions, hopes, dreams, values, aesthetic preferences, memories, etc. There are many thought seeds or moments of resonant identification/reflection dispersed evenly among the snappy giggles and inane comments/exclamations.

ImageSome nice quotes:

 “Democracy is:

Wendy’s on Monday

Burger King on Tuesday

Subway on Wednesday

Arby’s on Thursday

McDonald’s on Friday

Pizza Hut on Saturday

Panera on Sunday”

Image “The toilet was alive and called out my name!”

 “EYES on the PRIZE….the prize is just more eyes”

The sensibility is simple and playful with nods to comic book styles as well as dada and other weirdo cutup zine art. A solidly cool little booklet. It isn’t available on the site yet, and may possibly never be. It is still recommended that you check them out if you’re not too busy.

Their site:

Penny Royale – black widow and the archivist (Ghetto Naturalist Series)


Side A – A live performance of manipulated noises centered on feedback of various sorts. I think it sounds like a lot of it might be from a guitar, and the suspicion is based on a small segment toward the end of the side where a distorted guitar line is played in a low register. There are moments throughout that seem to hold brief guitar notes, too. This may all be from a pre-recorded source, though. Over most of the piece is an effect which makes a rhythmic cutting of the noise. The rumbling is filtered and flipped and gyrated mercilessly and seen through the variable-size iris of the mid-paced pulsation. At times the cutting of the sound is removed and sustained tones of feedback are unleashed and float mid-air. About half way through, what sounds uncannily like a child’s voice is distorted and echoed out in changing ways over the top of the harsh haze. The voice seems to take slight pleasure at the sound of itself being broadcast and wacked out. This is a classic nicely raw / lo-fi recording of a live noise performance with a tasty real room echo that puts you there.

Side B – ‘Peter’s Swine’ is an odd one. An assemblage of pig recordings. Starting out as a somewhat mild aural picture of around a dozen pigs being relatively talkative, snorting and grunting. You can take in the scene and there’s room to breathe. The pigs are just sort of hanging out, maybe a little excited over some food. Possibly some of them are flirting, having a mildly opinionated dialogue, complaining, bickering. Something starts to go wrong. Everybody gets excited. 25 more pigs are herded in. Now everybody who wasn’t joining the discussion just has to add their opinion. We’ve got about 50 pigs here, kind of agitated. (At this point in the piece, I am drawn to read the final 5 pages or so of George Orwell’s Animal Farm and remember the feelings it gave…) (Also at this point in the piece, my female lady friend girl came out from the bedroom, noted the novelty of the pig sounds, and after a few moments of attention paid was overwhelmed and disgusted as the piggies escalated to new levels of intensity, forcing her to retreat with extreme prejudice to the bedroom in an act of futile avoidance.) (I admit that I was kind of amused at her disgust over the piggy orchestra.) After a couple minutes of pig cacophony the din takes a turn into bending reality; the pig sounds start elongating and almost imperceptibly wobbling. The squeals and grunts are slowed down and overlaid in ways that make the terror of the pig-crowd into a near psychedelic experience. Everything is turning into pigs. The ground is made of pigs, the walls are made of pigs, your clothes are made of pigs, you are turning into a pig. All of these pigs that everything is made out of are grunting and squealing intensely in a dumb, mindless agitation. In a matter of 30 seconds or so, the intensity relents and goes back down to a level of everyday reality with only the original 10 pigs and the track ends. You’re not a pig, and the walls of the barn are no longer made out of the faces and skin of living pigs stupidly grunting. I guess it doesn’t get quite this weird. It was just fun for me to say so.

 ‘The Furrier’s Wife’ is a journey of a piece that starts with a short loop of a degraded melodic phrase. The sound quality is like that of an old 78 rpm record being played on an equally old victrola machine. A low wandering drone accompanies the loop, making a pensive atmosphere inside a dusty snowglobe drained of its water and partially re-filled with cobwebbing and dead bugs. The melody loop departs and we’re left with only the discomforting low droning and some breathy echoes that soon take over, elevating the overall frequency range higher and higher until a digital static is reached. The static changes forms many times, with differing bits of sound entering and leaving. The melodic loop shows up again after some pretty quiet moments of crumbling and fizz. This piece is oddly moody and cerebral, as is the whole tape in an odd way. Strangely nostalgic and contemplative, though at times noisy and fierce.

Penny Royale does an interesting variety of things on this tape. It isn’t just a harsh noise, lo-fi microsound, field recording composite, psych-noise… but it has good elements of all of these I would say. The willingness to include a big dynamic range is something that I enjoy in a noise artist, and I would think that a great noise artist would as a rule include this kind of mindset in their approach. Penny Royale seems to have a variety of sound-screw toys and an open approach to their use that piques my interest in hearing more in the future. The Penny Royale discogs page only shows two releases including this one, both from 2012. It would be fun to come across some more of their/his/her work in the future and see the list bulked up.


Drowning the Virgin Silence – Blue Noise C40 (Cae-sur-a)


This is a very stimulating tape. The fidelity is perfectly low overall for the styles put forth here, all in a classic home-taper vein, including cinematic industrial piano themes, zoviet france feelings, and other earthy psychedelic darkness.

Side 1:;:

‘Blue Noise’ is a side long stream of like themes centered around a discordant piano sogged by an echo box. Mechanical factory banging sounds are heard in the background, with support provided to the piano by what seems to be a synthesizer simulating a string section. The synthetic string section is encrusted with a layer of reverb and degradation, producing an early 1900’s film soundtrack texture for the piece overall. The distant sounds of metal banging or scraping in different timbres change over time, making miniature themes centered on the rhythms or tones suggested by the metals. Though this is all tense and, -as previously stated- discordant, there are moments when the elements harmonize in a beguiling way. What comes to mind is the soundtrack to a movie called Begotten, which came out in 1990. The soundtrack is beautiful and tense, being 98% foley sounds meshed with a simulated static of age, punctuated maybe twice by a short interlude of abstract ghostly tones that form a melodic line. The overall climate being of cold, alienating tension, the arrival of harmonious tones, however brief, has a bewitching effect. Adding the context created by the visual elements of Begotten, the psychological effects of introducing moments of harmony -however small- into otherwise atonal and unsettling audioscapes might become a bit more palpable to those who might otherwise be less sensitive. Blue Noise can be associated with whatever visual items are chosen by whoever might want to listen. I wanted to listen, and I saw strange midevil wedding dances brightly lit by outdoor sunlight around 8′ heaps of various melons repeatedly rotting and un-rotting in fast forward. (most things are pretty subjective)

Side 2:

Desolate Expanse



These are great drone pieces emphasizing effected guitar tonalities. Each piece has its own unique structure of elements in different registers and is performed with proper inspiration and restraint, and it feels good, too. With this recording the sensual listening enjoyment – the feeling of the music, for me, at first automatically superseded any critical analysis of the music. This is something that signifies an exceptional work. Side B’s 3 pieces are similar in mood and texture to some of Robin Storey’s recordings (Zoviet France, Rapoon, Reformed Faction), but with more focus on sounds from a guitar. Absorbing thought-pieces of intelligent mechanical loops humanized by tonal earth echoes and an organic antique static.

Richard Vergez, responsible for all of the instrumentation and production of this recording, is a smart choice maker. This music is simple and disciplined, yet stretches well-stated moods to challenging poetic lengths. Supplies a very satisfying 40 minutes for the sensual and the analytical faculties of the discerning listener.

There is a wealth of pleasing listenables at his other online locations that I encourage anyone to enjoy.