Loscil: Monument Builders (Kranky, 2016)

Loscil: Monument Builders (Kranky, 2016)

by Jason

krank204_10x10_300dpiLoscil is the ambient project of Scott Morgan who hails from Vancouver, British Columbia. On Monument Builders, Morgan utilizes sample based instruments, utilizing sounds and textures of his own making. The album is inspired by Philip Glass’ score for Koyaanisqatsi, the anti-humanist writings of John Gray, and the photography of Edward Burtynsky. Each inspiration explores that destructive nature of humans along with the inertia of fate or the lack of control humans have in this life. Mortality is at the center of this album, with the hopeful angst of survival amid the brokenness, the diseased, and the uncontrolled. Monument Builders, like much of Morgan’s work, is contemplative. It evokes, deconstructs, invites, and lulls one into a dream-state.

“Drained Lake” begins the seven-track journey of Monument Builders. It starts with a hum and what sounds like a fuzzed out distant ceramic plate warbling on a counter top. Deep, spacey synths dot the aural soundscape, leading the listener forward. Eventually, bass and a click enter the mix to provide percussion. There are pops and cracks in the various spaces as a high-pitched drone begins to hum and elevate, sounding like a siren. Perhaps the “Lake” is about to be drained as humans are warned to clear the area. The piece most certainly evokes the rushing of water out of the bowels of an earthen bowl perhaps as humans wreak environmental destruction on the hapless aquatic scene for the sake of “progress”. “Red Tide” begins with a reverberating base that works frenetically in the speakers. It is eventually joined with harsher textures and ominous synths. Morgan is brilliant at taking a title and creating a track that feels viscerally connect to it. The pollution in the oceans that create red tides, which destroys marine life, are clear here among the weeping synths and the larger, more powerful tones. “Red Tide” is relentless until about 4:12 where a horn sounds a melodic clarion call.

“Monument Builders” begins with bass that resembles a heartbeat broken up by cracks and tears and harsh textures. The plodding dysfunction of building things to our own glory at the expense of the environment is ever present in this portentous piece. The synths shake through the crevices of the soundscape as weeping noises fill out of the spaces. Again, a horn makes an appearance, breathing its heavenly remorse over the bed of ambience. “Monument Builders” is heady and deep, pulling no punches in the way only an instrumental track can. “Straw Dogs” hits the speakers with a massive fuzzed out hum that ebbs and flows. It is answered with a horn sound and is sparse and has open spaces for the first section. Then, synths begin to enter along with percussion that pulsates under it all. The horn rises and dips as layers get added throughout. “Straw Dogs” builds to this almost blissful, chaotic, purposeful brokenness and then silence. “Deceiver” invites the listener with a deep, melodic drone that is punctuated by a syncopated, morose tone. It warbles as it hops along the layers of ambience. Fuzzy scratches buzz low in the speakers, creating an uneasiness with their textures. Perhaps that Burtynsky influence has crept in here reflecting on the idea that humans self-deceive themselves into believing they actually have control.

“Anthropocene” begins again with that syncopated, hyper-agitated bass that thumps wildly. Burning sounds fade in and out of the mix while a horn punctuates the soundscape opposite them. It has a sense of rapidity, of urgency with no end. The era of humans on the planet is evoked here, with its need to rush, to take, to sprawl, to deconstruct. “Anthropocene” has a pregnant freneticism. “Weeds” is the finale to the album and is a much more patient track. It begins with a very slow, contemplative drone that builds through the use of layers. At about 1:47, what sounds like sampled voices begin to dance between the left and right speakers. They are unnerving over the softness of the ambient soundscapes. About halfway through, the voices and ambience are joined by reverberations that vibrate in the speakers. As the track reaches its crescendo, all of the layers and sounds get sucked into the reverberations so that they almost become one giant, conglomerated noise.

Scott Morgan is no stranger to composing deep, inspiring, and thought-provoking soundscapes. As an ambient artist, he is in a class of his own. On Monument Builders, Morgan deftly spins aural tales that evoke contemplation from the listener. It has separate, suggestive pieces that hold together in an atmospheric, cohesive whole. Highly recommended!

Preorder Monument Builders here.

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