Simon Scott: Soundings (Touch, 2019)
A prolific composer and consistently incredible sound-smith, Simon Scott has been putting out experimental music for a decade now. Yes, it is that Simon Scott, the rhythmic god who pounds the skins in the glittering progressive band Slowdive. Soundings is his newest album with 52 minutes of music combining field recordings, live strings, synthesizers, and soft synths created as he traveled across the globe touring with Slowdive. Recordings stretching over the course of four years, Scott records and produces a soundtrack to his meandering years on tour and all that means.
Soundings begins with field recordings on “Hodos” which give the album’s beginning an organic feel. Sting voices peer here and there among the shadowy and fuzzy tumult while more effulgent strings begin to hum, giving a floor to the piece. There is a patience to the opener, allowing the listener to soak in the subtleness of the moment. What sounds like birds punctuates, ever so slightly, the sonic landscape, giving this piece a living population. “Sakura” follows with an opening synthtone and bright, melodic notes. The dance of the synths becomes more intricate and then water flows as the centerpiece of that moment. As the water fades, the synths once again dance alone, sparkling in the foreground. “Santori” begins seamlessly as a subdued beat punctuates the air and deep, abiding strings ring out. A slight crackle fills the mix, giving a hint of aural texture. Vibrating electronic tones move and slide between speakers as they ungulate. There is an almost deep, beautiful mournfulness to this composition which moves the listener into a melancholic state.
“Mae” has whirling, looped synths that pour over and over one another as they circulate and then give way to more metallic and harsher tones. Birds re-appear here, grounding the track as strings take over and great a sonic river of aural light. As “Mae” fades, “Grace” arises and is textually quite different in its beginnings. Almost like the metallic rubbing of a vibrating guitar string, the tone is vibratory. It is accompanied by beautiful synth tones that feel like deep pools of refreshing water and the strings slide about, creating ease and contemplative moments. “Nigh” is meditative and hypnotic from the start. Dreamy synths and strings populate the piece as panning gives the sounds a glacial movement while deepening the textural choices.
“Baaval” is a more ephemeral piece with a deep core tone that reverberates out into a fuzzier texture. It begins a grouping of longer pieces at the end of the album. This piece is simple on the surface but increases in depth with every listen. Again, birds chirp, tying the track with former pieces. The synth work here is subtle but engaging. “Apricity” ends the studio tracks on the album and it begins with a deep, flowing tone. Textural accents flow in and out of the mix and incredibly subtle strings ebb and flow. This long form piece, clocking in at over 15 minutes, is a slow and radiant build, like high tide slowly moving in to meet the shore. The strings become fuller as the track progresses and the different variations move in and out of focus. The stings eventually fade or perhaps become a part of a larger, vibrating synth drone. The final track to the album is a live piece which is over 20 minutes long and was recorded at The Jazz Café. The piece is expertly executed and fits well with the tonality of the rest of the album. In fact, It is the perfect finale to the album, graceful and profoundly moving.
Simon Scott’s Soundings is a brilliant set of tracks that demonstrate his ability to mix subtlety with depth. This is over 52 minutes of engaging, ethereal ambience that evoke open spaces and the wandering of Scott’s last four years. I highly recommend picking up a copy of Soundings as well as diving into all of Simon Scott’s back catalog.
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