Main: Ablation (Editions Mego)
Mego continues its winning streak releasing quality new music. They’ve managed to resurrect Robert Hampson’s Main project for this new album, his first under the name in seven years. Ever since Main became a solo project for Hampson, following the departure of his former Loop cohort Scott Dawson, the focus on non-traditional music using guitars shifted into something more sublime and cerebral. Field recordings play a role in most of Main’s output, and Ablation is no exception. To create these four extended pieces, Hampson collaborated with Stephan Mathieu, and it’s a very exciting meeting of the minds as far as this listener is concerned. Stephan Mathieu consistently creates compelling textural ambient music, and so having his creative voice as part of Ablation only helps things. The album is broken into four movements. “I” is sufficiently dark, starting with field recordings before the low hammer of a piano resonates and decays. Unusual sounds sourced from instruments and objects (piano, tapped surfaces, field recordings) work in counterpoint to tense, high pitched drones. It may be minimal and not without some drones, but this is far from relaxing music — it’s taut and tense until its final trail-off. “II” is more purely electronic in nature, beginning with a slow crescendo of electronic chirps, like a chorus of cicadas that swells in loudness. Stephan Mathieu’s influence seems to creep to the surface a bit more with each successive track, often in the form of a wash of microtonal drones and overtones. However, the tone is significantly darker and more unsettling than most of Mathieu’s solo material lately. While his albums Remain and A Static Place are quite serene, this is all unresolved tension. Even on “IV,” where more atmospheric drones take center stage, there are disorienting elements including bright morse code-like blips that pan from one channel to the other or swelling, layered bleeps that comprise its final crescendo. Only in the final moments of playback does Ablation feel resolved and at peace. In this sense the album is also fairly different from Main’s more minimal previous output (the mid-90s Hz EP collection, for example). It has a unique sensibility and a restless disposition relative to Hampson’s previous œuvre, and this is no doubt a result of a significant passage of time as well as working with a new collaborator. It’s an outstanding addition to both Mego and Hampson’s repertoires — highly recommended listening.