When an artist has been recording for over 25 years, one really doesn’t expect anything new and great to come from him. But Robert Hampson (Loop, Main) is no ordinary artist. Even though his recording career began before many of our readers were born, he has remained relevant by retaining a keen interest in new sounds and techniques. This being said, Signaux is a vinyl recording of analogue electronics, a throwback to an earlier time. Yet while some nostalgia may lie in its compositional technique and physical delivery, little is to be found in its sounds; this is the sound of today, or tomorrow, or next year. The effectiveness of the album lies not in computers, but in arrangements. While ProTools have made many artists sound better, Hampson needs no adornment.
The two sides of vinyl (“Signaux 1 and 2”) display an intense array of the advertised “signals” – high end beeps and low end hums whose complementary tones travel the full length of the scale. When warm and cold fronts collide, their interaction usually creates storms, and such is the case here. The higher the percussive electronics fly, the lower the bottom sinks, as if seeking balance; the skies grow unsettled and warnings are issued. These warnings in turn lead to an equal and opposite reaction. The entire album is in a constant state of flux, two weather systems surging, colliding, coalescing, separating and re-approaching. Musical motifs surface and sink in the morass; abstraction threatens and is itself engulfed by order. For sheer variety, Signaux has no contemporary peer. Despite a difference in construction – “Signaux 1” is an 8-channel installation mixed down to two, while “Signaux 2” is a new composition – the two sides flow together like a single extended piece.
Signaux is released concurrently with the Sustained Cadences LP, which showcases a a pair of live improvisations. Sustained Cadences sounds like its title, drawn out and dronelike, as murky and measured as Signaux is reedy and resonant. Listeners are likely to prefer one over the other; to this reviewer, the latter is the stronger set. Together, they extend an old adage, proving that one can’t judge an artist by his age. Hampson is not only on top of his game; he’s continuing to grow as an artist and shows no signs of slowing. New acts, take note; this is how it’s done. (Richard Allen)