Robert Hampson/Janek Schaefer


Comae is the collaborative effort between Robert Hampson and Janek Schaefer, two giants of the British experimental-music scene. Schaefer, a trained architect, has been exploring the nature of sound through the medium of installations since the mid-nineties, and gained a degree of notoriety with his invention of the three tone arm, reversible, vari-speed 'triphonic turntable'. Robert Hampson is probably best known as the main guitarist and singer for Loop, but has recently staked his claim in the digital soundfile arena with his Main project and the occasional, improvisational collaboration.

Comae is the end result of the meeting between these two minds, and is very similar to Indicate, Robert Hampson's 1994 collaboration with Jim O'Rourke on Touch. Field recordings, deconstructed digital sounds, and the scratchy sounds of the triphonic turntable are pieced together in a non-linear and fragmented fashion that creates a sort of evolving narrative. The music can't really be described as ambient, as silence is the ambient backdrop for the cd's textural and tonal sounds. The music is more like a guided tour, with each new sound directing the listener through the ambient silence. It's an interesting experience that goes in different directions and circles back again, creating more of a scenario rather than a mood.

This disc benefits from the dynamic execution of the sounds presented, and the reoccurrence of the sounds throughout. Most of the time it's not apparent what the sounds are exactly, and so as the discs spins, it's not always easy to create a mental picture of what's being heard. But along the way sounds re-emerge in different contexts, giving life to the individual sounds, which gives the listener that sense of recall neccessary for following along.

There is an overall feeling of control and composition on the Comae disc. Robert Hampson and Janek Shaefer have created, from outside sources, a world in and of itself. Reference points are only found within and only when memory is revoked. Non-existant are the tonal experiments or hardware-crashing calamities found in the work of their fellow globetrotting, soundfile-manipulating cohorts. This disc perhaps proves that digital music can create and sustain new, musical contexts. Comae points the listener in a direction neither previously explored or even imagined.

- SK

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| November 2001 | Issue 20
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