Let me say from the outset that Upon the Edge of Night, the latest release from prolific electro-acoustic composer Robert Scott Thompson, is one of those albums that brings to mind the old quote, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” It’s not a release that will benefit from a written review; it needs to be given a deep, focused listen. While I don’t do “Best Of” lists, I would have to say that this easily stands out for me among the releases I’ve listened to this year. Across 13 tracks, Thompson touches on classic ambient drifts, neo-classical structures, and light sequencer music, all with equal grace and mastery. This is my first exposure to Thompson’s music, and I’m amazed at what I’ve been missing. Upon the Edge of Night is actually a collection of pieces “culled from a large number of studio sessions” for three upcoming releases–which makes 2013 a very promising year for listeners. It also accounts in part for the diversity at work here. Thompson opens the disc with the very soft ambient tones of “Strange Lines and Distances.” The piece has a lush, warm sound, punctuated with quietly repeating piano notes. Then, having spent 16 minutes convincing you you’re in a very good ambient disc, he greets you with “Glass is the Enemy of the Secret,” an almost playful little tune on the edge of electronic chamber music. It reminds me in spots of a slightly tamer Roedelius. And the changes continue from there, all the transitions smoothly made. He again takes the listener deep into a dream-like realm with the gorgeous flow of “The Misty Place.” Organic touches and a distinct progression of sound mark the journey here. There’s also a rich sense of emotion, admittedly on the melancholy side, that connects and draws you in. The slow piano of “Far Side of the Sky” is paired off with long string pads, Thompson letting the space between notes and the fading resonance have their say in the story. The twilight-hued “In Situ” is a borderline drone piece, sizable pads moving in a slowly advancing line. Another track that just takes hold of your mind and holds it still while Thompson works on it. “Variation Reveals” is like a pastorale on piano, flute, and strings, a straightforward, classically oriented piece. “Pale Fire” closes the disc with energetic sequencer constructs and interruptive sound manipulation. Spacey and a little odd…I like it.
Thompson takes advantage of the basically limitless size of digital model and provides a full 90 minutes of music here. That time glides by as he wends his way through styles. Nothing feels out of place or contrived; Thompson simply has this range, and he covers it well. A fantastic release and well worth looking into.
Available from Bandcamp.