Loscil First Narrows Review

Album. Released 2004.  

BBC Review

Third album from Canadian digital soundscaper, and the first to feature real...

Peter Marsh 2004

Electronica is by nature ephemeral. It didn't take long for the Future Sound of London to sound like the Retro Sound of Nowhere In Particular, for example. So while it might be the case that today's cutting edge laptop constructions will sound anachronistic in a few years time, it's nice to know that some music being made at the moment won't have that problem. Which is where this album comes in. This is the third effort by Loscil (aka Canadian Scott Morgan), and the first to use 'real' instruments (and 'real' musicians) alongside computer generated constructions. I've not heard the other two, but if they're anything like this one, I'm keen to get them on the stereo as soon as possible.

Despite his use of digital elements, Morgan doesn't go for the usual jumpcutting, pasting and glitching beloved of the laptop crowd. This is calm, unhurried stuff; warm, fuzzy and expansive. In the opening tracks, drum machines shuffle away gently under gauzy drones and synth pulses. Nothing much happens, but it happens beautifully. Later, electric piano, cello and guitar turn up to improvise sketchy, spare melodies or spin out lush, plangent chords, sometimes sampled and fed into Morgan's slow moving, dubby constructions. It's here that an Eno-esque feel creeps in; sometimes the rigorously gorgeous miniatures of Another Green World or Before and After Science, at other times the faintly jazzy bits of his collaborations with Harold Budd.

Like the domed one, Morgan never allows his music to lapse into mere prettiness. He doesn't subvert conventionally melodic material with digital noisebursts (a common trick these days), or underpin it with irregular rhythms. Instead he strips down and stretches his chords and melodies into a melisma of foggy drones and slow tonal shifts. It's often gorgeous, but there's a vague sense of unease abroad for much of the time; a faint, unresolved tension which catches the ear even at background levels.

It's this mix of beauty and vague threat that makes First Narrowsa subtly beautiful listen.This is music that seems to be out of time, like Morgan's contemporaries Stars of the Lid or Pan American and (speaking from experience) an idealsoundtrack to watching the restless cloudscapes of early Summer.Float on.

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