Posts Tagged ‘Loscil’

Kranky Records – 28th May 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Over the course of two decades and fourteen albums, Scott Morgan, under his Loscil moniker, has created a body of work which has probed myriad different directions within the electronic / ambient field. While his previous works have explored minimal arrangements and the application of difference source materials such as field recordings, none has been so intently focused on rendering a limited range of course materials in the most varied ways possible – which is precisely what Clara does, taking the same source material and seeing just how far it can be taken in different directions.

The accompanying text explains the process in detail, describing the album as ‘a stunning meditation on light, shade, and decay, sourced from a single three-minute composition performed by a 22-piece string orchestra in Budapest. The subsequent recording was lathe-cut on to a 7-inch, then “scratched and abused to add texture and colour,” from which the entirety of Clara was sampled, shape-shifted, and sculpted. Despite their limited palette, the compositions summon a sense of the infinite, swelling and swimming through luminous depths. Certain tracks percolate over narcoleptic metronomes while others slowdive in shimmering shadowplay, sounding at times like some noir music of the spheres’.

In some respects, then, Clara is a remix album, in the sense that some remix albums stretch and deviate so far from the original material that the song being remixes becomes unrecognisable, and one begins to question the extent to which the track is the work of the original artist and the extent to which the credit for its creation belongs more to the remixer. This may all be Morgan’s ‘own’ work but at what point does the source material become buries beneath the reworking? Perhaps what’s most remarkable about the album, considering its origins, is just how…. Normal, how smooth it sounds, as opposed to being a fucked-up mess of crackle and pop, hiss and static. I had anticipated scratches, abrasion, mangled noise, clicks, pops, something approximating the sound of a Brillo pad being applied directly to the microphone. But no.

‘Lux’ introduces the album in what feels like familiar territory: long, slow swells of strings flattened out into partial abstraction, smudging the definitions that stand between orchestral and ambience to forge sounds that have become almost the standard form in contemporary ambient. And this indeed the form for the album as a whole.

It’s no criticism to observe that Clara sounds like Loscil: Morgan is a master in the field of contemporary ambient, and has a supreme ability to sculpt slow-shifting soundscapes that are eternally intangible, unreachable, yet immersive in their soft clouds and vaporous drifts. ‘Lumina’ has some softly bouncing bubbles rising and eddying around in a soothing sonic foam that’s slow and gentle, while the ten-minute ‘Stella’ floats past almost imperceptibly.

Nothing about Clara is going to raise the blood pressure.

The track titles all refer to light and luminosity, and instead of scouring the ears and the soul, Clara recreates the warm glow of a log fire burning down to embers, or a dimmed bulb late on a summer’s evening after the sun has faded from the sky, leaving a purple-hued sky in its wake. ‘Sol’ slows and dissolves down to a low, pulped-down pulsation, from which in its mist emerges a rippling loop of rippling mellowness that hints at the abstracted ambience of Tangerine Dream.

Even in the face of the most broken, damaged of source sounds, Loscil smooths the edges and renders them something else, and something other, by a process of softening, of melting into abstraction. Clara is a magnificent work of transformation, of distancing, whereby the end product emerges in an entirely different sphere from that which begat it.

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The latest collection by Cascadian resident loscil aka Scott Morgan is a stunning meditation on light, shade, and decay, sourced from a single three-minute composition performed by a 22-piece string orchestra in Budapest. The subsequent recording was lathe-cut on to a 7-inch, then “scratched and abused to add texture and colour,” from which the entirety of ‘Clara’ was sampled, shape-shifted, and sculpted. Despite their limited palette, the compositions summon a sense of the infinite, swelling and swimming through luminous depths. Certain tracks percolate over narcoleptic metronomes while others slowdive in shimmering shadowplay, sounding at times like some noir music of the spheres.

Although Morgan’s compositional premise for ‘Clara’ was quite defined, the resultant work is wonderfully opaque and spatial, equal parts lush and lurking, traced in fine-grained gradients and radiant silences. The album’s title comes from the Latin for ‘bright’: a fitting muse for this masterpiece of celestial electric currents and interstitial ether, where “shadows are amplified and bright spots dimmed.”

Watch ‘Vespera’ here:

Loscil

Photo by Ben DidierPhoto by Ben Didier

Kranky – 16th August 2019 (rarely)

Increasingly, I’m finding a need for ambience in my life. We live in an extreme world, and in that context, a barrage of extreme metal and heavy-duty industrial makes sense – because release. We all need catharsis, an outlet. You’re never going to get that from Ed Sheeran so I can only assume his fans are so numb, so oblivious, so distanced, so disconnected, so braindead that the hell that is modern life simply doesn’t register with them.

This morning, feeling somewhat stressed by life and battling with some flatpack assembly to a soundtrack of sit 90s dance tunes and tannoy hollering being blown through my window from the Race for Life event with its start at York Racecourse, just up the road, I decided it was a good time to check out – a shade belatedly – Loscil’s latest offering.

Equivalents is what you might call quintessential contemporary ambient. The compositions are formed with layers of broad, soft sounds that sweep and drift and swish and drone, eddying abstractly to soothing effect. But there are tones and textures which break the soft, vapour-like surfaces and disturb the tranquillity: not brutally so, not to violently or abrasively as to damage the atmosphere, but sufficient to prick the listener’s senses back to attention as stuttering disturbances interrupt the delicate flows.

These moments shift the album – which I’m playing at sufficient volume to drown out the pumping beats from the racecourse wafting through the window – from background to foreground, and do so in a way that isn’t jarring.

It’s the subtleties and timings of the changes that highlight Loscil’s skill as a musician. Equivalents is more than the perfect antidote to modern life and noise stress: it’s a wonderful album.

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Loscil - Equivalents

Canadian composer Scott Morgan shares a video for the track ‘Equivalent 6’, taken from his 12th long-player as Loscil, Equivalents.

The album takes its title from an influential series of early 20th century photographs by Alfred Stieglitz, abstracting clouds into miasmic, painterly canvases of smoke and shadowplay. It’s a deeply fitting analog for Morgan’s own musical process across the past two decades, fraying forms and tones into widescreen mirages of opaque texture and negative space. The name Equivalents referred to Stieglitz’s notion of the photographs as being equivalent to his “philosophical or emotional states of mind;” the same could be said of these eight weighty, shivering chiaroscuros of sound. Each piece unfolds and evolves enigmatically, adrift in low oxygen atmospheres, shifting dramatically from pockets of density to dissipated streaks of moonlit vapour.

The entirety of the record was created specifically for the album with the exception of ‘Equivalent 7’, which began as a dance score for frequent collaborator Vanessa Goodman. The album version of this track was reworked with Vancouver musician Amir Abbey aka Secret Pyramid.

Watch the video here:

Canadian composer Scott Morgan’s 12th long-player as Loscil takes its title from an influential series of early 20th century photographs by Alfred Stieglitz, abstracting clouds into miasmic, painterly canvases of smoke and shadowplay. It’s a deeply fitting analog for Morgan’s own musical process across the past two decades, fraying forms and tones into widescreen mirages of opaque texture and negative space. The name Equivalents referred to Stieglitz’s notion of the photographs as being equivalent to his “philosophical or emotional states of mind;” the same could be said of these eight weighty, shivering chiaroscuros of sound. Each piece unfolds and evolves enigmatically, adrift in low oxygen atmospheres, shifting dramatically from pockets of density to dissipated streaks of moonlit vapour.

The entirety of the record was created specifically for the album with the exception of ‘Equivalent 7,; which began as a dance score for frequent collaborator Vanessa Goodman. The album version of this track was reworked with Vancouver musician Amir Abbey aka Secret Pyramid.

Listen to ‘Equivalent 7’ here:

Scott Morgan (aka loscil) and Mark Bridges have together produced their debut album as High Plains, taking to the high altitudes of mountainous Wyoming to create a record faithful to both the grand landscapes extending below them and the rich contemporary electronic pedigree of the respective members. Titled Cinderland, the LP will be coming out via kranky in March, and ahead of its release, you can hear the track ‘Black Shimmer’, which we like very much indeed.

 

Kranky – 11th November 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

In researching and considering Loscil’s latest offering, I returned briefly to the previous album, 2014’s Sea Island. An album that was broadly ambient, it was also firmly a work of electronica, an album that was big on ideas, and engaging rather than immersive or entirely background.

Monument Builders expands on this, and while texture and tone continue to play central roles in the formation of the individual pieces which make up the album, it’s also an album on which the individual tracks are built on dynamic and contrast, and the structures of each piece are clearly defined. While the overarching tone is gentle, subtle, there’s much variation between the tracks, and the way in which sounds suddenly emerge in the foreground means there is a continual sense of movement within each piece and across the album as a whole.

Delicate beats thump like a heartbeat against the ticking clock: the soft notes which form a repeating motif through ‘Drained Lake’ may not in themselves build tension, but there’s something beneath the surface. All is not well, all is not calm. You sit, on edge, as an elongated drone undulates like a distant siren wail.

‘Red Tide’ is very much rhythmic in its focus, a cyclical synthesised bass loop – part Kraftwerk, part ‘I Feel Love’ – forms the spine of the track. ‘Anthropocene’, the album’s penultimate track, stands as something of a companion and counterpart to this, with a similar bubbling motif murkily pulsating beneath, while mournful brass conjures black and white or sepiatone scenes of bygone days. It’s an interesting contrast well executed.

Monument Builders is very much a ‘next stage’ work, which continues to expand Loscil’s sonic horizons in a host of directions. But equally as important as recognising the artistic developments, one has to consider the listening experience, and this is ultimately where Monument Builders triumphs. In switching between background and foreground musical dynamics and building and reducing the degrees of tension, Scott Morgan (aka Loscil) has masterfully created a work which demands attention without being excessively obtrusive.

 

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Monument Builders is the new album from loscil, the ambient/electronic project of prolific composer Scott Morgan. It was primarily created on sample-based instruments in Morgan’s century- old Vancouver home. Like that aged space, this music is also rough-hewn, with rickety samples of boiling kettles and resonant moving air. Recordings from a vintage micro-cassette recorder contribute distortion, rattles and textures that serve as both percussion and abstract aural colour.

Ahead of the album’s release on 11th November via Kranky, you can hear the title track here: