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Robert Scott Thompson: Summer Idyll
Aucourant Records

Summer Idyll could be seen as somewhat of a mongrel-like recording by Robert Scott Thompson, given that it consists of out-takes derived from sessions for albums currently under development for Anodize, Relaxed Machinery, Dark Winter, and Aucourant. Yet it holds together as well as any other in the electro-acoustic composer's canon, and had one not been made aware of such a detail, one would not have thought for a moment that there's anything of an out-takes-like nature about its content. Certainly the fact that the six tracks were created during the same time period—the summer of 2015—is one reason why the collection sounds as cohesive as it does, but an even stronger reason is Thompson's artistic sensibility, which infuses every moment of the release's eighty-three minutes with his characteristic sensitivity to composition, arrangement, and sound design.

Summer Idyll is dominated by three long pieces, the half-hour title track the longest, that make the three short pieces seem like miniatures by comparison. The album's restful tone is established by “Sublimation,” a prototypical Thompson setting in its shimmering intermingling of electronics and piano. The listener is repeatedly teased with hints of melody that resist settling into formal melodic expressions; instead, sounds meander and drift yet not without explorative purpose. Contrasts from one piece to the next are evident, with Thompson threading wordless vocals into “Perigee” and percussion into “Slow Rotation of Stars,” the latter of which sounds so much like a Paul Schütze production from the ‘90s it could pass for one by the Australian artist. The long-form, almost gamelan-like “Summer Idyll” exemplifies a generative-styled quality that recalls Eno works such as Neroli and The Shutov Assembly, unlike the foreboding ambient-drone “Lacuna,” which plays like a sheet of ice transcribed into aural form for twenty-two chilled-to-the-bone minutes—a summer idyll it most definitely isn't. Crystalline, meditative, soothing: all such adjectives apply to these classic ambient constructions. Notes hang in the air, stretching out languorously across extended episodes of stillness and calm, and tension reigns in the way Thompson postpones resolution until a track's end—if then.

October 2015