Poesis Athesis (2008) — Robert Scott Thompson — Ambient Electronica

...evocative ambient atmosphere...

It can’t be easy when Brian Eno’s constantly lauded as an ambient deity while your own work gets labeled “New Age” and celebrated less rapturously. But there are moments on Robert Scott Thompson’s Poesis Athesis that are as pretty as anything on Music For Airports and, in fact, “Mystic Pearl” is so reminiscent of the opening piece on Eno’s classic it could be taken as a bona fide homage (it certainly sounds as if bits and pieces of Robert Wyatt’s piano playing have found their way into Thompson’s piece).

A concept album of sorts, Poesis Athesis came about when Chi Kung Master Terrence Dunn commissioned Thompson to create music for a series of video productions, with the result more than ten hours of music produced for ten Flying Phoenix films. The detail helps account for the pronounced Eastern dimension that pervades the rhythms in “Paradigm as Supergenre” and “Evening Star (Daybreak Mix)” but even when the material seems to have been transplanted to the Far East, it never loses the soothing ambient character that one presumes is a Thompson trademark (though I’ve only heard a couple, the man’s apparently released more than thirty recordings on Hypnos, Oasis, Mirage, his own Aucourant label, and others). No instrumentation is identified but one guesses that Thompson’s strings, harp, vibes, et al. are electronic simulations; regardless, the sound palette is rich and diverse though a noticeably synthetic quality is sometimes audible.

Anchored by the soft patter of hand drums, “Nuema” offers an entrancing pas de deux for harpsichord-styled keyboard and strings, and “Mystic Pearl,” a slow-motion, eleven-minute mix of piano, synth tones, and electronic sprinkles, drifts so placidly it induces sleepiness. Thompson includes an homage to Erik Satie and, though the track isn’t identified by name, “Moonbeam Splashes on Water” is the likely candidate. Though a bit more elaborate in its arrangement (Thompson supplements piano with string tones, harp, and ambient sweetener) and, at nine minutes, longer too, the piece is reminiscent in mood and style of a Satie Gymnopédie. Whatever the preferred genre label, pretty pieces like “Nine Flowers” and “Taoist Elixir Method” remain elegant inducements to contemplation. Though overlong at seventy-eight minutes, Poesis Athesis includes more than its fair share of evocative ambient atmosphere.

— Textura

...a music of unashamed luminescence and discreet charm...

Robert Scott Thompson is one of those criminally unsung electronic musicians versatile enough to embrace everything from fragile atmospherica to computer-based electroacoustic music, which goes some way to explain how those styles are effortlessly blended into the abject wonder of Poesis Athesis. Created to accompany a series of videos choreographing the Chi Kung exercises of Terrence Dunn, the thirteen pieces here manage to synthesize Kitaro’s inner sanctum musings, David Parson’s rugged Tibetan ethnic pulses, and the sacred space musics of Michael Stearns into one blissfully mesmeric whole.

Fear not, however—Thompson’s too fine an aesthete to offer merely another new age wolf in cheap clothing: while this is no doubt a music of unashamed luminescence and discreet charm, Poesis Athesis proves that attractive instrumental agility can coexist within meditative realms.

Within the near 11 minutes of “Mystic Pearl,” Thompson permits the total arsenal of his collective strengths to blossom: mournful strings, lightly-dappled tablas, Budd-ing pianos, and the pitterpatter of regal synthesizers effect a sort of spiritualized chamber music that’s completely at ease in its enveloping serenity. Perhaps at odds with its colleagues, but as the unpretentious nature of Poesis Athesis unfolds, its distinctive elements nevertheless sharpen thanks to the wide angle Lens of its imprint.

— Darren Bergstein

...an absorbing album with ambient roots that ventures into understated, moody melody...

Serene, graceful melodic electronic music with a pervasive oriental slant. Poesis Athesis is made up of electro-ambient soundscapes with occasional ethnic fusion beats supporting gentle themes carried by bowed strings, piano or diverse synthetic voices. The string melodies sound very much like the Chinese er-hu in delivery consciously drawing on the Eastern associations of the instrument – breathy flutes, metallic gongs and bowl sounds further building on this exotic imagery. In places strange whirling effects stir the air, or sounds suggestive of night insects, ruffling the stiller tones of the silky synths that underpin much of the music. The beats contain a variety of soft hand drums – deep booming skins and muted pads – overlaid with the restrained clatter and wooden tapping of lighter percussives. The pace varies considerably across the album – there are some very slow measured passages where the percussion barely maintains a beat, dreamy swaying patterns creating a mystical impression; other places lose the beat altogether – the music meandering and doleful. The album includes an homage to Erik Satie – sparse piano lines against strings reminiscent of some of the composer’s most enduring pieces, although here with a somewhat more brooding tone.

Robert Scott Thompson has delivered an absorbing album with ambient roots that ventures into understated, moody melody coloured with the rich sounds of the Far East – eerily beautiful in places, haunting and lulling at the same time.

— Morpheus Music Reviews

...absolutely sublime in its beauty...

Robert Scott Thompson is one of the front-runners in experimental ambient music. He is also a world class composer, sound designer and engineer. (He is also a very kind soul and a true gentleman.) He is meticulous and every detail is planned to the nth degree. Robert creates interesting and relaxing soundscapes at his Georgia studio using lots of electronics and found sounds. He spices things up with some acoustics and organized dissonance.

Poesis Athesis is a set of these experiments he created for the Flying Phoenix Films of Terrence Dunn. It is absolutely sublime in its beauty. Robert uses an acoustic piano as the common denominator of the set. It holds everything together as it weaves its way through the atmospheres and soundscapes. The tempo seems to wander all over the place but it is planned to do so. The piano seems lost in the dense fog of the electronics but that, too, is by design. He is using contrasting imagery to create an aura of mystery in his development.

Robert composed and created over 13 hours of music for the films. He has taken these 78 minutes and forged a new story – his own film in music as it were. The CD unfolds like a novel with an introduction, plot development, crescendo, climax and a denouement. His literary style complements his symphonic compositional style nicely.

These pieces work very well outside their original format. Robert has sequenced the music to fit meditation, relaxation, yoga, body work and massage, or to be used as simple background music for daily activities. There are no overtly psychoactive elements but there is enough psychoacoustic activity to get the message home – relax, chill and just float on the sonic waves.

Robert has created dozens of masterworks in his career. There is no way to choose a best but it is safe to say that all of his music is very good or better. He is, indeed, one of the greatest composers of electronic music of this or any other era.

— Jim Brenholts

...a constantly changing collage of harmonics deftly woven together...

This CD is the debut release of Robert Scott Thompson on the Lens Records label and gives fans of Robert’s music a chance to see him stretch out into some other genres including elements of electronica, some ethnic influences and a tribute to French composer Erik Satie. The music that has been culled here on this CD was originally written as the soundtrack to a series of video releases created by Terrence Dunn who also happened to be an admirer of Robert’s work.

Robert is no stranger to most folks who have listened to ambient music over the years with more than 30 releases worldwide under his belt. And yet when I listen to each CD that comes across my desk here at Ambient Visions I like to hear it as an individual release and evaluate it on its own merits and not immediately compare it to everything else an artist has released in the past. I guess this attitude can be summed up quite succinctly with the expression “what have you done for me lately”. This in no way denigrates the artist’s previous efforts in any way but each time I put a CD into my player I am looking for a pleasing sonic experience and if I don’t find one then it won’t matter how many great CD’s this artist has put out in the past or how much I enjoyed the last CD they released because I wouldn’t be able to recommend their latest CD because it did not stand on its own two feet as a great release.

With that said I really enjoyed listening to Poesis Athesis and I do believe that this release while being different that what you might expect from Robert it is still a soothing musical experience that leaves the listener relaxed and in a contemplative state of mind by the time you get to the last track. But considering that these tracks were meant to work with the videos teaching Chi Kung or Qigong it is understandable that the music would be gentle and comfortable. Robert’s keyboards tend to permeate the compositions creating rich soundscapes that draw the listener into each composition allowing them to think about what they are hearing and at the same time allowing the mind to relax its grip on the world. This gives the active listener something they can put on and enjoy while doing nothing else but enjoying the music. It also is unintrusive enough that a person can put it on in the background while doing other activities but still from time to time find themselves drawn to a particular song that catches their attention momentarily.

I would call the music on Poesis Athesis mysterious and brooding at times but it never sinks into a darkness so deep that you feel like you are being overwhelmed by the darkness of the compositions. I guess there is a fine line between being dark and just being very introspective. While the songs have been created for a variety of video productions it appears that they have all been chosen so that they form a cohesive vision of where the music should lead the listener. While each song is a unique composition the 13 tracks on this CD work well together and don’t jar the listener out of their introspective frame of mind as the music shifts from track to track. As you listen to track number 1 called Paradigm as Supergenre you might think that I wasn’t listening to the music as I wrote this review but even with the rhythms and the drums it still maintains an atmosphere that stays consistent with the rest of the CD. The rhythms continue through track 3 before breaking into a more laid back sound that depends more on the piano than it does on the drums.

In short this CD encompasses many themes and explores them individually while the structure of the CD as a whole creates and maintains an environment that allows the listener to enter in to the landscape and be a participant in their minds if they so choose or it also allows them to simply watch from a distance as the scenery moves by in a constantly changing collage of harmonics deftly woven together by Robert to put the listener into a meditative state of mind. Even the more rhythmic oriented pieces won’t pull the listener too far out of this frame of mind and that is always an important consideration when putting together a CD such as this. No one likes to be drifting along taking in a peaceful sonic landscape and suddenly be yanked back or jarred out of this state by a song that just doesn’t fit.

All in all this CD is a fine addition to Robert’s catalog of work and even if you don’t know of Robert’s work at all this would be a good stand alone CD to add to your collection. While it may not be indicative of Robert’s overall work it still works beautifully as a single CD.

— Ambient Visions

...a beautiful selection of themes...

In this soundtrack music, now released in CD format, Robert Scott Thompson shows his most meditative side. The artist composed more than ten hours worth of music for a series of ten video releases by Terrence Dunn. “Poesis Athesis” is a beautiful selection of themes from these soundtracks. The general style of the music can be more or less placed within Contemporary Instrumental Music, with some characteristics of melodic Ambient. The melodies and the rhythms incorporate elements of World Music, as well as cosmic and symphonic traits. The music is of a soft character, romantic, with a certain mysterious flavor.

— Virginia Tamayo 


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