Another review delayed by a week; I promised to be consistent and on-time but real life tends to get the better of me sometimes. So, here’s our Essential Ambient #8 ( :O ), Loscil’s Plume.
Scott Morgan, aka Loscil, is the drummer for Destroyer, although you wont hear any of their influences here (thank goodness). In fact, his work under the Loscil alias is about as far removed from Destroyer as you can imagine. Deep into ambient/drone territory, Morgan crafts each of his albums around a theme or idea or objects; Submers follows famous submarines, Endless Falls is about liquid water and Plume, well, Plume is about gases and water vapour (by extension).
Morgan has grown up a little more here compared with his previous releases, finally becoming more acoustic and introducing some beautiful instruments into the mix. First Narrows introduced more people and instruments into his workflow but here they are allowed to improvise and create something that feels distinctly more organic. Backing drone is a staple of any Loscil track and he remains true to his roots, but we are treated to cellos, which form the basis of “Bellows” and really help to carry the drone element along. The incredible sustained harmonics heard on “Charlie” and the delicate yet bouncy “Zephyr” are produced from an eBow playing a guitar. A vibraphone makes an appearance in a number of tracks too, notably “Chinook”, adding an extra, dampening dimension to the surprisingly upbeat and uptempo synth. Despite all this additional instrumentation the Loscil sound is still there as strong as ever; you could even criticise it for this, wondering what really makes this different from any other previous release.
It’s a curious album, for sure. Many of the tracks are introduced by the soft swell of the drone, acting as a backbone for the primary melody to attach to. The melodies themselves are uncomplicated and repetitive, oscillating back and forth yet evolving, typically reaching a “crescendo” or maximum textural complexity 1/2 to 3/4 of the way through before breaking down and melting back into the drone. But it isn’t just simple loops repeating over, oh no, there are many layers of sound each playing over and with one another, all of it gentle and soft. There are no jagged edges here, nothing to disturb the atmosphere. Tracks just seem to appear, play along, and then disappear, like smoke you could say. It is wonderfully laid back listening, but it still feels well controlled and precise in its production. I think the improvisation really helps to maintain a level of interest as well as a unique depth.
I’ve always felt that Loscil is a very good way to get into ambient and drone music, especially Plume. It manages to straddle the divide between ambient and I suppose techno, insofar that its foundations are built on drone yet there are upper levels of more complex, beat driven sounds. Makes the transition easier to swallow, I think. Like most of his work, however, something about this feels unsettled and hard to pin down. It’s quite neutral, emotionally, but there is something almost sinister about the whole feel. Just listen to “Rorschach” and I think you’ll understand.
Plume brings something a little different to the table, merging ambient and drone and ambient techno to give something that is quite airy and playful on the surface, yet with more serious and sombre undertones in the drones beneath. Recommended for anyone new to ambient.
Tagged as: Plume. Loscil. essential. review. ambient. drone. ambient techno. vibraphone. rhodes piano. cello. ebow.