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Loscil - Submers

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Artist: Loscil

Album: Submers

Label: Kranky

Review date: Nov. 14, 2002

Music for Drydocks

Calling it an underwater version of Ambient 1: Music for Airports or the missing link between Selected Ambient Works 85-92 and Selected Ambient Works, Vol. 2 places Submers in an appropriate, but hyped-up context. In an age when influences are often mistaken for substance, the latest from Loscil (a.k.a. Scott Morgan) is an integrated whole: original, subtle, and exciting.

The tracks on Submers are named after submarines, and while Kranky tells me that the last track is a requiem for the crew of the ill-fated Kursk, I prefer to think of this as music for submarines, not in Enossificated music-to-chill-the-passengers terms, but composed with the submersible itself in mind. Morgan is no stranger to concept albums (last year's Triple Point borrowed a bit of nomenclature from thermodynamics, the title being the temperature where a substance co-exists as a solid, liquid, and gas) and he seems to be on to something much more elegant with Submers. Submarines, sonar, tides and waves all make themes, especially with the echoes and sustained synth pads that define ambient techno. While the music itself never slips into the proggy and the pretentious, one does wonder why Morgan goes to such great lengths to title ambient tracks.

But from the opening "Argonaut" to the closing "Kursk," Submers is vast, varied, and cinematic. Glorious, undulating synths swoop, glide and squiggle over spiky, steady rhythms. It feels like it's all about water, but it could just as easily concern clouds and/or ice. Morgan is a fan of Csound (the name Loscil comes from the "looping oscillator" function), a tool used on laptops everywhere to sculpt synth sounds on a meticulous level. While a few of the rhythms are a bit familiar and the extended filter sweep on the hi-hat-ish part in "Gymnote" resembles 1993, this album's textures are hard to place in any particular stylistic era. It feels close to some of the giants of ambient, but it stands on its own. One can only wonder how Submers will age.

By Elliott Brennan

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