Switched On – Loscil: ALTA (self-released)

by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

On his Bandcamp page, Loscil describes this self-released single track as ‘a generative music piece originally part of an audiovisual installation at the Libby Leshgold Gallery on the Emily Carr University campus in Vancouver BC, in March 2023. The installation was designed as a 4-channel piece of endless music. Presented here in stereo, it can be thought of as a long exposure capture of the otherwise continuous music from the installation.’

Moving on, he says, ‘ALTA is an addition to the ADRIFT series of generative music pieces named after abandoned sea vessels. Originally released in 2015 as a mobile application, and redesigned as a Max patch for the installation, ALTA/ADRIFT uses structured random selection, mixing and panning to weave together the sonic phrases and layers.

The MV Alta was abandoned at sea and set adrift in 2018 near Bermuda, eventually reaching the shores of Ireland in 2020 where she remains shipwrecked.’

What’s the music like?

Few artists have the ability to capture a listener’s mind as Scott Morgan does. Only a second or two into ALTA and his music as Loscil has cast its own inimitable spell, setting out its considerable structure and declaring – in that instant – that it’s time to slow down.

ALTA certainly takes its time, the single track running for just over 42 minutes, but in that period it calms the mind, slows the thoughts, and pans out to take a broad overview of its watery panorama.

There is an otherworldly presence in the treble tones that cross the sound picture from one side to the other, and also in the held middle ground sounds that give such a detailed and focussed perspective. Once again the listener can zoom in to forensically examine the properties of each sound, or they can draw back to take in the vast panorama, which the music does frequently.

As the single movement progresses, so the music starts to follow the pattern of breathing – with long inhalations, full of consonant harmony, followed by silence – and then a similar, sonorous exhalation. This supports a meditative process for the listener, shutting out the noise outside. By the end the timbres are like the softest panpipes, given the longest possible sustain.

Does it all work?

Yes – as one track that ebbs and flows over a vast span, switching between detailed close-ups and big, spray-painted panoramas.

Is it recommended?

It certainly is – an addition to the Loscil discography showing once again his ability to hold the attention for longer spans. ALTA might be the length of a romantic symphony, but it has a similar impact in its subtle but intense means of expression, simultaneously inward and outward looking. An essential encounter for fans, and those new to Scott Morgan’s music.

If that hasn’t convinced you, head over to Bandcamp, where the music is available at whatever price you wish to pay!

Listen & Buy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.