Monday, 7 December 2009

Post-Loop Rocking with Robert Hampson!

The conventional wisdom may be that after Loop disbanded in 1991, Robert Hampson and Scott Dawson - the two guitar players - ditched the drums and abandoned rock -

...starting minimalist-ambient group Main, using electric guitar in unconventional ways, occasionally joined by the great G.C. Green on bass, incorporating field recordings, eventually dwindling down to just Hampson alone, growing more and more hushed over time, finally taking the poor man up his own existence with records you had to keep double-checking to make sure were actually on...

Even ignoring his brief tenure with Godflesh (Hampson played on their 1992 Pure album, as well as appearing on the Cold World and Merciless EPs), this simply isn't the case - Main began with more than a touch of that rock guitar still intact before it became the quiet, rather austere outfit it's primarily known as today.

Robert Hampson:
The early days of Main were ideas that I had that I wanted Loop to go into but it didn’t work. That was the way of getting rid of those ideas.

Do you think you’ll ever go back to the more repetitious avant rock sound you had with Hydra and Calm?

No, that all finished with Motion Pool. Motion Pool was the epitaph to it all. It was very deliberate: the first few tracks were the residue of what we were doing and then there was the newer stuff. It was a deliberate mish-mash.

Indeed, if one were to cherry pick the more 'rocking' compositions that Main put out over their long existence, you'd have quite the heavy record indeed. If one were to go a bit further afield - including tracks from Hampson's 1990-era Orr collaboration with Bruce Gilbert and Paul Kendall, as well as Main's Hz EPs project - you'd have more than one CD's worth of songs. About 104 minutes' worth, actually.

This is by no means a definitive list. I've left off Main's Wire cover ("Used To", off Whore), and then there's tracks like "Pulled From The Water", which are rocking in part, but also contain lengthy non-rocking bits. Indeed, much of the earlier Main material contains moments that may be said to alternate between ambience and beat or regularity, even if this were only a repetitious noise or bassline.

Simply put, here are some of my favourite post-Loop tunes wherein Mr. Hampson still plays a solid riff or embraces a groove. The man continues to put out records today of course, but, so far as I know, he hasn't rocked in over a decade now, at least publicly. Crank this up and witness a master disappear.

Hydra EP (1991) -

Calm EP (1992) -
There Is Only Light
Feed The Collapse

Dry Stone Feed EP (1993) -
Above Axis

Motion Pool (1994) -
Crater Scar
Spectra Decay

Ligature (Remixes) (1994) -
Core (Organic)
Reformation (Expansive)

Hz (1995) -
Corona Pt. 1
Maser Pt. 1

Orr (1990/96) -
Minute Hold
Source 1

Robert Hampson's music is best when negotiating the space between song and non-song: his Main albums Motion Pool and Dry Stone Feed exist in a liminal zone, buffering song structures with sheet-lightning guitar, hypnotic bass and sandy, fossilised sound incident. The further he moves from that area into the curiously faceless spaces of the Firmament series or discs like Tau, the closer he gets to an unengaging blankness, an electro-acoustician pottering away on the margins.

- Paris Transatlantic Magazine, October 2006

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