I’m starting to become convinced that you haven’t heard a pulse dissolve or a measure replicate off-time quite right until you’ve heard Loscil, which, appropriately, if true, took its name from the “looping oscillator” function in the program Csound.
Scott Morgan, the man at the helm of this fine Kranky act from Vancouver, weaves atmospheric, oft-murky and sometimes breathy textures among the somber, the noir-ish and the divine on Loscil’s new Sea Island LP, the noble successor to 2012’s Sketches From New Brighton. The results are as impressive as I hope those words would suggest.
Falling somewhere between the lushness of Matmos and the stark, other-worldly narratives of label-mates Pan-American – though, in both instances somewhat less song-centric — Loscil unfurls 11 tracks that creep along to their eventual ends with various airs of mystery. It’s a modus operandi he’s worked into an art-form for a half-dozen full-lengths now. For the most part, on Sea Island, he hits the mark and then some, sending the requisite chills up the spine or straight through the more cerebral parts of the brain. There are few musical lulls, and even fewer, if any, unintentional ones.
Songs like album-opener “Ahull” use ambient electronics to toy with polyrhythms, repetition and time signatures, creating soundscapes that are dense with electric pulses, found sounds, synths and hints of vibraphone. On “In Threes,” a subtle bass measure enters the sonic plateau, driving forward another off-time flutter of electronic sound, until it dissolves into a series of soft pings that, at first, hide their frameworks but, in time, embrace and build upon them. (A similar set-up, though one I’d gladly hear duplicated a dozen times, occurs on “Sturgeon Bank.”)
But elsewhere on the new record, the technique seems sublimated to the mood, as on the excellent “Sea Island Murders,” with its pseudo-jump-cuts paired underneath and above droning washes, and closer “Angle of List,” which is so airy it nearly floats away from you entirely.
Morgan uses juxtaposition similar to “Sea Island Murders” in the crawling expanse of “Catalina 1943” and the pulsing “Angle of Loll.” “En masse,” with its bold piano statements, is alternately pure and funereal. “Angle of List” and the nine-minute “Iona” — with static cut-ups edging out subtle waves of electronics at mid-point, among the record’s best moments — can be shatteringly beautiful.
The attention to construction lends the record a slightly more academic air than Kranky’s recent outing with drone-swellers A Winged Victory For The Sullen. But the comparison is worth noting. Both acts have released gems this year. And both know how to take simple statements and in-between moments and rework them into something mesmerizing.