17 Nov 2014 — Evelyn Malinowski
It's safe to say that early Loscil is more on the innocent and curious side, however still plenty dour and shy. Triple Point and First Narrows are beautiful, patient works where optimisim, too far too reach but perfectly audible, lingers in uplifting melodies. Twinkling, splattering sounds, droplets of pad synth and glossy breezes contribute to Scott Morgan's compositional aesthetic and form a Loscil leitmotif profile. As a collector, completist of sorts, any artist who has such subtle evolution alongside stylistic constancy is a quality not only appealing to me, but also very admirable, as it reveals a certain amount of focus and aesthetic on the artist's end. It also feeds my appetite for assimilating catalogued containment, a serial package.
Sea Island, of course, is no exception to Morgan's profile. Though still administered with the usual dotty pads and slow, sighing waves of realization, the new material is rich, brooding, and daringly sad. Starting off with "Ahull," our ears immediately laze into a seaside domain that has perhaps recently experienced some ecological devastation. Aforementioned optimism starts the album off but quickly floats away to another locale. "In Threes" is shiny yet gawking, then, with "Bleeding Ink," we're in full reception of a lamenting, uncomfortable place, and it is there that we stay until the final track. After an IDM-like commencing melody, one that strikes the chords of uncertainty, vocalist Ashley Pitre's crooning palpitates between the tremendous and sparse downbeat. The emotional transformation of this track registers it as one of the more powerful songs on the album, as it communicates the steady arrival of to-be-avoided feelings such as naiveté turned paranoia, second-guessing and foreboding, in a most attractive way.
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"Iona" displays of a slow ringing of bells and gently corresponding melodic progression. If ever there was a song or story about what it must be like to sit through watchful, alienated nights on a hillside in Iona, this is it. Perfectly in the middle of the track, Morgan drops the ambient bass and thus Loscil-esque cadence and clicking that is coded in heavy filter and effect lifts us back up into implied, perhaps aerial movement. "Holding Pattern" sits with itself well, talking to itself while gracefully moving around octaves for a more dynamic anthemic experience. As we dive deep into the album, we reach more consistent darkness. "Catalina 1943" (which perhaps reflects on the sinking of US PBY Catalina boats implemented during World War II) and "En Masse" embody the attitude of unwillingness to compromise or forgive; "Sturgeon Bank" somehow metes out memories of betrayal with quicker and more clever rhythmic work. The angel songs, "Angel of Loll" and "Angel of List," are flecked dub tracks sans dance beat.
That said, it is perhaps agreeable to observe that any Loscil album compliments the mood of any November upsettingly well; Sea Island, however, belongs to this particular November, and is a precedent of the start of this particular winter which is predicted to be brutal. With all the North American uproar in dub techno lately, Sea Island surely stands a chance for becoming a favorite of the current mood in electronic music. Implied appreciation for nautical geography, for where land meets water, this album is a highly recommended sad and slow dub techno selection, dub of the rainy north. Dub, after all, tends to associate itself with water and the coast, doesn't it?
Sea Island is out today on the one and only Kranky.