Loscil: City Hospital
Wist Rec

Like Time Released Sound and others of its kind, Wist Rec is one of those labels whose lavish hand-made presentation of its products makes them as appealing on visual grounds as aural. And so it is that Vancouverite Scott Morgan, who's been issuing quality music under the Loscil name since 2001, is the latest beneficiary of the Wist Rec treatment. Conceived as a soundtrack of sorts to the Malcolm Lowry novella Lunar Caustic, City Hospital supplements a nineteen-minute EP with postcards, photo images, text, maps, and even musical notation (for the last of the EP's four pieces, Edvard Grieg's “Death of Ase”), with all of it neatly housed within an elegant sleeve design.

Set in a New York mental hospital, Lowry's story (published posthumously in 1963) tracks the inner experiences and external surroundings of Bill Plantagenet as he recovers from an alcoholic-fueled breakdown—a semi-autobiographical saga rooted in Lowry's own stay at New York's Bellevue Hospital in the 1930s. Though it unfolds without interruption, Morgan's rendering is actually in four parts, with noticeable changes in style and form signaling the move from one part to the next. In coupling pensive, electronic textures with field recordings (water, naturally), the opener, “Awoke on a Ship,” is vintage Loscil, while the same could be said of “The Coal Barge,” a foggier piece by comparison but ghostly, too. Moods of loneliness and despair dominate the third part, “Staring Out of the Window at Twilight,” the listener now visualizing Plantagenet wrestling with his demons during the desolate hours of early morning. While the EP's first three parts are classic Loscil, the fourth takes the recording into an entirely unexpected yet thoroughly satisfying direction when “Death of Ase” exchanges the field recordings and electronic textures for classical piano playing. Enveloped in blur, Grieg's melancholy piece seems to return to the listener like a long-buried memory. Interestingly, while the release is modest in length, it's also a wonderful distillation of Loscil's art as well as Wist Rec's, and is a superb addition to the catalogues of both.

July 2013