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Upon the 1991 dissolution of the British trance-rock quartet Loop, bassist Neil McKay and John Wills formed the Hair and Skin Trading Company, leaving guitarists Robert Hampson and Scott Dawson to found the highly experimental Main, a project combining the aesthetics of ambient music with layered tapestries of droning electric guitar textures and dark, ominous soundscapes. Main's debut EP releases, 1991's Hydra and 1992's Calm -- later collected as the Hydra-Calm LP -- were their most aggressive, as well as the closest to conventional rock idioms; beginning with 1992's stellar Dry Stone Feed, the duo began exploring ambient sounds, gradually eliminating all traces of percussion and rhythm from their work. With 1993's Firmament and the triple-LP set Motion Pool, Main began pushing into "drumless space," a realm of cold, alien sound with little resemblance to conventional musical structure; 1994's Firmament II severed all remaining ties to tradition, focusing instead on two epic, abstract environmental pieces with no earthly precedent or connection. After 1995's Ligature, a collection of early material remixed by the likes of Paul Schütze, Jim O'Rourke, and Paul Kendall, Main mounted Hz; their most ambitious project yet, it compiled a series of six monthly EPs pushing harmonic drones, industrial intensity, and atmospheric minimalism to their furthest extremes. Upon completing the third installment in the Firmament series, Dawson left the duo in late 1996, and Hampson continued Main primarily as a solo project, returning with Firmament IV in 1998. After the turn of the millennium, Tau was released on K-Raa-K in 2002, followed by Exosphere, part of the Staalplaat label's Mort aux Vaches series, in 2004. In 2006 Hampson announced he would be retiring the Main name to focus on his solo work, feeling burdened by fans and critics associating his work with the guitar, an instrument he had grown tired of long before. There was a period of dormancy, but by 2010 Hampson was deep into work on several solo albums and by October of the year announced he would be re-instating Main once more. He was joined this time by composer Stephan Mathieu and the two worked together on 2013's Ablation for Editions Mego, the first full-length Main album since 2006.
© Jason Ankeny /TiVo


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