Loscil’s music has always been a destination—sometimes subatomic, sometimes colossal. It’s a musical act of tilt-shift photography; by playing with light and the scope of stretched sounds, landscapes become strange, small, distant, and important. But on ‘Monument Builders’, Scott Morgan has found a new urgency to drive the lilted landscapes and draw the eye in the misted, blurry soundscapes.
Although there’s a darkness to it, Morgan still conjures the old atmospheric dub in his broad strokes. Tracks like the opener ‘Drained Lake’ maintain the patient, grey unfolding of sound that’s driven his career. The slow, lush pulsing of ‘Deceiver’ could be cut and lifted from any moment in his discography. It’s the new, striking loops here that drive the album—‘Red Tide’ rips open with sharp, arpeggiated attacks reminiscent of Philip Glass’ classic Glassworks, and ‘Straw Dogs’ whips into a snare-driven frenzy.
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And then there’s the horns.
See, Loscil is, if anything, dedicated to theme. And while he paints with an expanded and energetic palette on ‘Monument Builders’, the true tension in the piece is the placement of the human amongst the desolate. Take the title track—what could be just another dreamy ambient track cracks open with the croon of a French horn, lonely and echoing. Gasps of breath cut across the lull. An organic sound strikes out from the distant landscape. No longer content to rest in the mist, there’s no choice but to peer to the distant shore and hope for the shape of the vaguely human, the statue rising from the fog, a shack hugging the coast, the marks of civilisation.
What’s at stake is permanence. ‘Monument Builders’ follows the general arc of tension and release that spans across much of Morgan’s work, but the true story is told in the desire to last. ‘Straw Dogs’ is filled with the urgency of impermanence and the paradox of history, eternity with the full knowledge of limited existence. ‘Anthropocene’ captures the insane lust for productivity, though nothing lasts forever. The music embodies a want, the need to be heard, the desire to leave something behind to be remembered by.
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And maybe that’s what Morgan asks. Even with the overwhelming melancholy of decay, it’s hard not to look for the human in everything. ‘Monument Builders’ could wash by without a thought, but it’s the minutiae that bring things to life. The smallest noises cast the most light. It’s hard not to be amazed at the little gasp of breath before a horn note or surprised by the gentle creak of a body readjusting in a chair, paper shifting on a stand.
The album leaves with the unsure clip of the human voice. ‘Monument Builders’ is history being made, moment by moment. It’s the manufacture of memories for those not yet forgotten. It’s anyone’s guess who’s left when the dust settles; what matters is that we look.