Release Date: Nov 18, 2014
Record label: Kranky
Genre(s): Electronic, Avant-Garde, Post-Rock, Experimental Techno, Experimental Electronic, Ambient Techno
In the summer of 1983, a couple was found murdered in their beachfront cottage on Sea Island, Georgia. William B. Roberts, a former president of Chevron International Oil, Inc., was 61, and his wife, Merrill, was 52. They had been dead for four days when their naked bodies were discovered in two separate bathrooms, “repeated layers of cloth and tape covered their heads from chin to forehead”.
More here than on any other album in his discography, Scott Morgan’s Sea Island – his newest album under the Loscil project – occupies that curious space in ambient music also occupied by Harold Budd, Steve Roach and Sunn O))). It’s a dissociative space, where the act of listening is encompassing, and one is as close to ego death as sobriety permits. In its barest form, Sea Island is an hour-plus electronic ambient work.
Since the settlement of Vancouver, Sea Island has been one of the most unfamiliar and inaccessible corners of the city. Originally inhabited by First Nations peoples, it became home to a small community of settlers who built an airport and a Boeing factory that made warplanes for the Royal Air Force. The expansion of the airport throughout the 20th century destroyed about half of the island's community and a good portion of its untouched natural beauty, leaving behind an industrial wasteland and a tangle of natural reserves.
Time comes and goes on Sea Island. Frames of reference skip, stretch, lose efficacy. Illogical scopes of space-time-sound pass us by from moment to moment, ceasing to connect, ceasing to cohere. Events transpire, we are engaged, we sometimes find a groove. But a hypnosis kicks in and we discover ….
Loscil's Scott Morgan operates at such a consistently high level that the cohesion between his albums makes them even more immersive. Sea Island feels like an evolution of the sounds and ideas he explored on his previous full-length, 2012's excellent Sketches from New Brighton, and the short-form releases that followed it, the piano-driven Intervalo and his split EP with the British ambient group Fieldhead. Morgan sets an introspective, dark, but not oppressive mood similar to that of Sketches with tracks like the misty "In Threes," and, as always, uses small shifts to achieve seismic results; the way "Holding Pattern" warms up its chilly, flute-like tones and electric piano is almost imperceptible from moment to moment.
Vancouver resident Loscil's 11th album, Sea Island finds him grappling with subtlety. The densely layered elements on Sea Island don't weave in and out of each other so much as they merge together like rain drops on a car's hood. A pulse here, a blip there, a bubble from the depths, all trickle together towards the collective puddle for a short while before the whole brew begins to evaporate into the ether.
For the past 15 years, Scott Morgan's prolific Loscil project has been quietly compiling a syntax all its own. Rich phrases of luminescent synthesisers linger for minutes at a time, while clipping digital rhythms are occasionally heard gently jutting away in the distance. Scrupulously integrated melodies emerge ghostlike in the mix, barely announcing their presence before melting into the ether.