Loscil Equivalents (Kranky)
reviewed by Ben Hogwood
What’s the story?
Scott Morgan’s twelfth album as Loscil is inspired by Equivalents, a collection of black and white cloud photographs by Alfred Stieglitz from the early 20th century. Given that he lives in Vancouver, with its panoramic sky views towards the eastern Pacific, Morgan had constant reminders while writing his concentrated musical responses to eight of the pictures.
What’s the music like?
The imagery fits Loscil’s music perfectly, Morgan often creating music that works as an audible representation of a weather system.
Once again time and space are suspended in this music, which seems to be incredibly simple when placed in the middle background, but which on closer inspection reveals intricate lines when up close, rather like those cloud systems. The eight equivalents, slightly confusing in their placements out of conventional order on the album, unfold with slow gravity. Like their clouds they are weighed down, almost to floor level, but their layers combine to make constructions of rarefied beauty.
Equivalents 1 & 3 (picture above) make a good pair with which to start, both brooding in minor keys but in the second piece oscillating softly between two pitches above a long, held note. If you close your eyes and concentrate at this point natural phenomena come into view (they did for me at least!) and there is a palpable, windswept energy despite the complete lack of percussion.
The central Equivalent 5 (above) is the most memorable and remarkable, with the closest thing to a melody you will find on this album. A four-note motif, drawn over around 10 seconds, enjoys a stately progression through the clouds, like a plane on an onward journey as the mass of water swells around it.
In response Equivalent 2 (above) has that rare breed of stillness Loscil can conjure up, floating weightlessly above the solid masses. Again though this has a slow moving, four note movement, audible in the bass part.
Finally Equivalent 4 (above) inhabits a similar timeless space to Holst’s final planet Neptune, with a rich added chord bolstered by fuzzy outlines that gradually fade from view.
Does it all work?
Yes, with the greatest intensity. Some of the best ambient music is pleasant and relaxing to listen to but carries with it a concentrated feeling. Loscil achieves that balance once again on Equivalents, placing his listener in the very photograph providing him with inspiration. On headphones that notion becomes a very intense but also private experience.
Is it recommended?
Absolutely. A Loscil album that is ideal for new listeners but which will wholly satisfy his devoted fans. If you haven’t joined them already you are strongly advised to do so!