Loscil: Submers

Following his debut Triple Point, Vancouver’s Scott Morgan aka loscil releases his sophomore effort, the 60-minute Submers, which fuses string-like samples, minimal techno, and submerged tones. Imagine the aural rigor and classical ambience of Wolfgang Voigt’s Gas recordings combined with the conceptual heft and submersive aura of Gavin Bryars’ The Sinking of the Titanic and you’ll have some idea of what Submers sounds like. Conceptually, the nine tracks are named after submarines, with the last one, “Kursk,” a requiem of sorts for the ill-fated Russian sub. Morgan states that ‘loscil’ is a conflation of the terms ‘looping’ and ‘oscillating’ that describes his basic process, and, while this explanation is not misleading, characterizing his music in this manner underacknowledges the subtle yet sophisticated compositional explorations that Morgan builds into his tracks.

The lead track “Argonaut I” establishes the overall approach. A clicking track and shimmering, chiming tones surface out of a bed of amorphous chords with an overall haziness permeating the music. “Gymnote” features oscillating tones and an insistent, wave-like clicking rhythm punctuated by rising splurges. “Mute 3” begins with a muffled beat overlaid by melancholic chords and singular tones. As the track unfolds, dynamic contrasts and added melodic elements maintain interest. After an aquatic opening, “Nautilus” segues into a forceful techno rhythm; Morgan eventually arrests and then stretches the percussive accents, blending them into the vaporous stew. “Diable Marin” begins in a most Gas-like fashion with its billowing chordal samples, but an elaborate rhythm then appears, bestowing an explicit techno quality that is less pronounced in the Voigt releases. A swirling mass of clicks, reverb, and tones forms the foundation of “Resurgam,” which is then enhanced further by a call-and-response pattern between gaseous chords and stuttering tones. “Le Plongeur” begins mournfully with wave-like looping rhythms and overlaid clustering tones while “Triton” is composed of a clicking track, chordal surges, and rising, massing orchestral samples. The elegiac “Kursk” unfolds slowly, distant, signal-like tones emerging and fading out of a bed of elongated drones.

Submers will appeal to those with a taste for deep, oceanic ambient in the Gas mode, although Voigt’s ‘wall of sound’ approach is more Spector-like by comparison. Submers is a non-abrasive, meandering music, its essential quietude belying its wealth of shimmering sonic detail. Morgan does not just generate rhythm tracks that loop ad nauseum; rather, he uses loops and tones to form an aural bed upon which melodic and dynamic contrasts are explored in order to create full-fledged compositions. The general mood is melancholic, even at times ominous, in keeping with the submerged quality of the overall concept. While not a groundbreaking recording, loscil’s superior integration of texture, rhythm, and melody makes Submers a worthy and subtly distinctive addition to the electronic ambient genre.

December 2002