Robert Scott Thompson - Synthesizers, Samplers, Programming, Electric Cello, Found Sounds, Vox and Production.
- Sidereal [1:04:01]
Robert Scott Thompson is a recording artist with over a dozen solo CDs. He works in alternative classical,avant-garde, computer music, ambient, spacemusic, advanced new-age and pop genres. His newest offering and debut release with Space for Music sends you on a sonic journey for sure. Covering vast soundscapes in single semi-long format...
Sidereal is a new semi-long form ambient recording from Robert Scott Thompson. I write "semi" long form, because while there is a definite flow and cohesion to the album (and there is only one time cue) the music does morph between distinct and separate moods and feelings. However, there is also an underlying drone (per the liner notes) and I'll admit that there is also a subtle atmosphere at work throughout the recording as well.
Sidereal is Thompsonís musical impression of the "background noise of the universe," that miasma of cosmic static that permeates all of space. Which is not to say that Sidereal "mimics" or recreates those sounds of the cosmos. Instead, what ambient music pioneer Thompson has done is create a work that is truly sublime and exists in a constant yet subdued state of flux.
However, even more of a testament is that Sidereal has moments so wonderful that you may want to "freeze frame" the CD and just bathe in the musical bliss you hear at any one moment.
Using an assortment of synths, samplers, guitars, and his patented Thompson electronic and computer wizardry, the album opens with a passage that is forlorn and somewhat dark, yet flowing with a melancholic romanticism. Reverberated piano notes are juxtaposed with strange cosmic wiggling noises, angelic vocal samples (is that Latin she is singing?), and an assortment of electronic music textures and drones weaving an eerie - yet never scary - musical web. The reverberated piano is particularly evocative, its minimalism bearing some resemblance to Ernesto Diaz-Infante, James Johnson, and Brian Eno.
The pervasive background textures (which are barely there sometimes) lend an air of cosmic spaciness to Sidereal. On headphones, this continuous stream of electronic shading is better appreciated than on speakers, although on loudspeakers, the music takes on a more traditional "ambient" feel and gives the CD a certain palpable spaciousness and openness as the music "hits" the listening environment.
As mentioned above, the CD passes through several separate musical "boundaries" such as the transition into an arrhythmic series of bell/gong tones, strange wire sounds, and deep bass reverberations, along with even more minimal piano music (this time not reverberated but the single notes are sustained). From there, the album melds into shadow and mystery and even darkness with the emergence of more traditional dark ambient trappings (meant in the best possible sense). Floating minor synth chords, strange alien drones, and a scraping bell-like sound send chills up my spine. But even amidst this spooky soundscape, the inherent beauty of the music still comes through loud and clear. Sidereal is NOT Stalker or Heresy - not be a long shot. However, itís also not And the Stars Go With You. In fact, Sidereal is wholly original (which is no shock, since it comes from an artist whose middle name should be "unique" instead of "Scott").
I haven't scratched the surface of describing Sidereal yet. Like Robertís last album (the ultra-ambitious and awesome Acousma), reviewing an album like this is not about relating a blow-by-blow account. Itís more a study in capturing the mood and sensations of the album. I don't know that I could even do that very well (without writing another 1,000 words) but Sidereal is an amazing album because it somehow manages to be intellectually (and artistically) challenging and stimulating yet is also completely accessible for almost any ambient or spacemusic fan.
One section of Sidereal is blissful with floating synth chords matched against high-pitched synths lending an air of celestial magic. This is followed by an alien soundscape of whirling effects, disturbing 2001-ish drones, and a sense of immense expanses of blackness. Yet later, arrhythmic clangs and percussive effects play out against piano that recalls parts of Ennio Morriconeís score to Carpenterís The Thing - a tangible sense of dread and loneliness settles over the music. Then, the music quiets way down with a simple background machine-like drone (almost like the background noise on the spaceship Discovery from 2001). This section morphs into Eno-esque ambient heaven - full of minimal piano, gentle synth shadings, and a sense of gossamer-thin beauty, held together by plucked-strings and graceful snippets of melody.
If you like spacemusic or floating ambient music, I'd find it hard to believe that you won't enjoy exploring the various sonic terrains that Robert Scott Thompson maps on Sidereal. I played this CD five or six times and enjoyed it more each time, as layer upon layer of the album revealed itself to me. Itís also the rare ambient recording that rewards both direct and indirect listening. Somewhere between light and dark, Sidereal sets its course for the area of deep space which can be both inviting and scary - as it reminds us of how infinite the universe is and yet also how, with spiritual synchronicity, we fit squarely into it all. Sidereal (if there is any justice) should finally garner the praise and recognition that has eluded Robert Scott Thompson for far too long. Itís that good an album and comes highly recommended.
2002. Bill Binkelman / WIND and WIRE