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Loscil - Sketches From New Brighton

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Artist: Loscil

Album: Sketches From New Brighton

Label: Kranky

Review date: Oct. 10, 2012

Scott Morgan’s last full-length as Loscil, 2011’s coast/range/arc, offered an icy alternative to the fluid, rain-soaked ambience most commonly found on his previous releases. While not abandoning his penchant for slow-motion orchestration, the record — especially when played through headphones at tinnitus-tempting volume — was desolate and brittle, a well matched soundtrack to the frozen expanses framed by the album’s artwork.

Now, slightly more than a year later, Morgan returns to longtime label Kranky for Sketches From New Brighton, a collection both more accessible and less revelatory than his paean to the snowy wilds.

Sketches takes its name from a small park bordering Vancouver Harbour — a spot reviewed, rather hilariously, on Google as an “awesome place to go chill and do whatever you want” — and the nine tracks seem a pristine accompaniment for enjoying the vantage point’s parade of clouds, barges and sea birds. Songs are built from hanging, contemplative chords and the soft thump of sparse bass notes. Individual tracks vary the theme slightly, from the hiccuping percussive patters of “Khanahmoot,” through the reflective dub of “Cascadia Terminal,” but the changes are minimal and rendered in a uniform palette of gray.

Yet, where coast/range/arc utilized similar shades to create tracks which echoed the environmental sound constructions of Thomas Köner or Chris Watson, Sketches too often suffers from simply being pretty. Part of what made coast/range/arc an occasionally difficult, oft inspiring listen was the music’s active engagement with the surroundings which inspired it. Morgan here seems content soundtracking a passive — if not entirely immobile — experience. As such, Sketches is pleasant listening for an afternoon of chilling out and watching the ships go by, although it will instill in the careful listener a nagging want for something deeper.

By Ethan Covey

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