No, you aren’t looking at a mislabeled John Luther Adams compilation. Loscil, the ambient/drone project of Vancouver’s Scott Morgan, has long aimed for unity between music and artwork. Plume (2006) opened with an image of an isolated smokestack, and through a series of winding, pulsing pieces evoked the concepts that arise when viewing industry from a distance: a stark mindset somewhere between alienation and boundless yearning. Submers, four years Plume‘s prior, followed a similar pattern, with music and artwork both centered around a nautical theme. And here, for coast/range/arc, the artwork features an endless winter landscape, with several of the seven pieces named for locations in British Columbia.
What Morgan is after here is something much more restrained than on Loscil’s previous full-length, 2010’s Endless Falls. That album had an intimate scope, but also tweaked Morgan’s formula somewhat, not to mention a guest appearance from Dan Bejar. (Morgan has been known to play drums in Destroyer ) Here, there’s a steadiness, a greater reliance upon drones and evocation of the vastness of the spaces he’s invoking. It’s not just the cover artwork that suggests Adams’s body of work, after all.
“Stave Peak” has a minimalist’s bliss that recalls the Bang on a Can Ensemble’s recording of Music For Airports, while the climax of “Fromme” practically shimmers. These seven pieces, however, take some time to unfold; “Stave Peak,” at six and a half minutes, is the shortest. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with developing music subtly, several of the pieces run dangerously close to passing by the listener without ever grabbing their attention.
Not all of them, however. “Névé” hearkens back to the sound of Plume, with just a hint of static glitchery in the mix and a haunting suggestion of a melody. If Loscil is invoking a landscape here, it’s a particularly cold one (The title refers to a particular type of snow.) And the sonorous drone of “Goat Mountain” is entirely massive, a booming suggestion of something massive. For the 10 and a half minutes of its duration, it suggests a middle ground between Christian Fennesz and Sunn 0))) -- and represents a solid and compelling expansion of Loscil’s sound.