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Sketches from New Brighton

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Album Review

Scott Morgan spent the two albums he made prior to Sketches from New Brighton, Endless Falls and Coast/Range/Arc, expanding on his subtle ambient approach. On this collection, however, he pulls in a bit, using the experience from those explorations to craft something just as rich as those albums in spite (or perhaps because) of its simplicity. As with all of Morgan's work, Sketches from New Brighton establishes a striking sense of place within its music, not just because it was inspired by an actual location — in this case, an oceanside park near the Vancouver Port Authority — but because it has so much depth. Over the course of the album, a handful of sounds combine in ways full of hushed beauty and creativity, emphasizing the sculptural nature of these tracks. "Khanahmoot" begins things with gentle but engaging gradations that prepare listeners for the more ambitious explorations to come. One of these is the eight-and-a-half-minute-long "Second Narrows" (whose name makes this album's connection to Loscil's 2004 album First Narrows more explicit). It's one of the most expansive showcases for Morgan's almost imperceptible shifts, as the dark pulse that makes up the album's heart is joined by delicately layered beats and synths that get more fractured and active as the song nears its close. On this song and the rest of Sketches from New Brighton, a watercolor softness and transparency to the sounds pull in listeners ever so gently and give an almost subliminally soothing effect to many of its tracks, such as "Container Ships," which feels nearly amniotic in its weightless intimacy, or the lulling warmth of "Coyote." However, not all of the album is so cozy: "Hastings Sunrise" boasts a sharply metallic tone that recalls a shakuhachi flute in its insistent loneliness, which envelops the rest of the track with a noir-ish glamour and mystery that make it all the more striking, and "Collision of the Pacific Gatherer"'s bassline adds an ominous undertone to the rippling electronics that overlay it. Yet these changes in mood are as subtle as everything else on the album; all the better to discover the different ways these songs flow into each other. Sketches from New Brighton may not be as immediately gripping as Endless Falls or Coast/Range/Arc, but its never-showy refinements are just as impressive in their own way.

Customer Reviews

Headphone Commute Review

Sometime around 2010, Scott Morgan dove even deeper into a territory of his minimal ambient sound. Morgan has been releasing on Chicago based Kranky since 2001, when he published his debut, Triple Point, as loscil. A year later he followed up with Submers, then First Narrows in 2004, and Plume in 2006. But it is the above mentioned (and very welcomed) slow descent in 2010′s Endless Falls that really got me addicted. It was this meditative, almost trance-inducing landscape, with deep lows and white noise highs, that had me lost in a world of loscil. With a slight nod to environmental isolationist ambient, Morgan continued to explore this new direction in a beautiful 2011 release for Glacial Movements, titled Coast/ Range/ Arc. And it is with his even more refined sound and top-notch production that Morgan returns to Kranky, with this very latest, Sketches From New Brighton.

It is easy to drown in oscillating waves of delayed minor chords, pulsating vibrations, and microscopic rhythms. To appreciate the expanse of covered frequencies, one should be equipped with a nice pair of headphones (especially if your neighbor has been complaining about the sub lately). In this acoustically rich ocean of sound, one may want to take the time to slowly submerge to the depths of wet atmospheric nadirs. With a title like Sketches From New Brighton, Morgan gives us a reference point of a geographic location in Canada’s British Columbia, in his hometown of Vancouver. The title tracks refer to a scenery overlooking a shipping port, drafting sketches around “Prairie Trains”, “Cascadia Terminal”, and “Container Ships”. Regarding this particular concept album, Morgan explains further:

“This album gets its name from an odd little ocean side park that borders industry and the Vancouver port authority and lays claim to being the birthplace of the city. In a way, Sketches from New Brighton is a continuation of a dialogue with my environment that started with First Narrows (kranky 2004) and continued with the Strathcona Variations EP (Ghostly International 2009). It is not a rigorous ‘study’ per se, but more a series of sketches, loose interpretations of the spaces I inhabit as well as an acknowledgement of their influence on my practice. These are my impressions, a kind of sketch of New Brighton and the surrounding area in an abstract form.”

But one does not need to be engulfed in a structured meaning encompassing this body of work. Stripping away the concepts defined by the artist leaves the music free, soaring all on its own, moving in swells of flooding sound, sunk ambient pads, and vast sonic soundscapes. With this latest addition to his catalog, Morgan once again reassures his lauded presence in the dub ambient electronic music community. It’s no wonder that Seattle’s Decibel Festival is featuring his live performance at the OPTICAL 5: Undercurrent showcase, along with his Kranky label mates: Windy and Carl, lissom, and Christina Vantzou. If you’re lucky enough to be at the festival, I highly recommend you witness this performance. You know I’ll be there…

Best Ambient music in Years

As always Best Ever… … ..About time Eno had some company. It’s lonely sometimes in outer space...


Born: Canada

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Born in Canada, Scott Morgan apparently appropriated his Loscil alter ego from the operation code within the sound synthesis system Csound. Although he admits he rarely actually uses Csound to create his compelling minimalist recordings, he asserts that looping and oscillating are the basics of his music-making process. Loscil’s debut, Triple Point, was named after the scientific term for the temperature where a material can exist with its solid, liquid, and gas phases all in equilibrium. Based on...
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