I remember it as if it was yesterday. My old friend Bernard tried, vainly at that time, to take me in his strange kingdom of EM. He had just received an album of a transparent white where the dissonance of sounds was, to his ears, synonym for symphony of noises. The album in question was Cords from Synergy. There is no parallel to be made between this classic and this last album of Robert Scott Thompson, except that my friend of always saw in the cacophony of sounds and the turbulence of the ambiences an abstract dawn serenade of which the only purpose was to satisfy the curiosity of the ears.
And here I am, something like 40 years later, speaking to you about an album where some other kind of noises and turbulences of ambiences are carriers of a fascinating charm which finds actually refuge in the greediness of ears always in search of an art which constantly pushes back the limits of the probability. We say about Robert Scott Thompson that he is an alchemist of sounds. And “Palimpsest” makes nothing to contradict this etiquette a bit conceited but indeed fits him very well.
With its handful of pebbles which roll, tumble and re-fly by metamorphosing into drops of water, “Rock Garden” instigates as much the curiosity of the ears as the suspicion of our interest towards a work of sounds and atmospheres. Wandering voices come from what seems to be nowhere, while that some hisses, lappings and guttural winds bring us to the core of a cave where always resound, but in a scattered way, these pebbles and their strange metamorphoses. “Resonant Drift” follows with its small concert of carillons and its sound waves which finish to reveal the charms of a strange meditative musicality. “Embellished Serenade” runs away with the echoes and the ambiences of “Resonant Drift” to offer us a fascinating spectral melody which seems to get out of the groans of tortured souls. Here are two well titles which sound like nothing but in the end shape an interesting moment of ambience which fits with horror movies. The title-track besieges our ears with a concerto of carillons. Still there, the shadows which go out of there are forming strange droplets of which the flow forges a melody broken and dissipated through a dialogue of mocking birds. From pastoral moods to flights of strange noises, “Palimpsest” navigates between two universes of which the contrasts remain intimately bound. The short tracks, such as “Ritual Space” and “Enamelled in Bell Gold“, are welded in one with ambiences and sounds as ill-assorted as fascinating, becoming even objects of charade for the ears. “Moodus Noises” is a long ambient track and is fed of drones and of the reverberations of silent bells. It’s the most musical piece of music, and the most meditative, of “Palimpsest”. It leads us to the very spectral “Chanson” where we have the impression to invade the world of darkness and their ectoplasmic hosts. “Epilog Linea” is the track that I like the most on this last album of Robert Scott Thompson. The ambiences here are so soft, delicate. And even if the turbulence of the sounds are covering our ears from time to time with an enveloping veil of discomfort, the tears of synth which cry as souls imprisoned into a endless cave cheer up our ears with sinister airs of redemption.
I won’t play you, nor shall tell untruths, “Palimpsest” is an album which is going to sound so unbearable for those who are in search of a music a bit more musical than experimental. But those who look for a kind of thing which comes of nowhere, for a symphony of dissonant noises and among which the shadows and the residues eventually molded a thing which haunts the ears as well as sticks to your walls, well I would say that you came just at the right place with Robert Scott Thompson and his “Palimpsest” album. This is abstract music for sure but strangely not divested of life!
Sylvain Lupari (June 21st, 2015)