During the summer the girlfriend and i like to spend some time sitting on the beach. And by that i mean, we go to Florida and rent a cabin, sleep a lot, sit on the sand, wade in the ocean, and go out drinking. Lately we have been summering in St. Augustine, and i am very fond of a small brewery there called Bog Brewing Company. It's a nice brew bar to sit and drink a few beers and relax.
This year when we there, the music that was played was kind of hipster heavy, meaning that i recognized a lot of it but the girlfriend (who is a known Deadhead) did not. One song stuck out because of particularly inane lyrics over a catchy enough melody. I used the Shazam app to find out that it was a song by Destroyer. She asked about the band and before i could say anything the bartender enthusiastically went on a long rant telling us everything we could ever want to know about the band. Apparently, he is their #1 fan in Florida.
And so he queued up their latest record on his phone and played it for us over the sound system. It was, well, it was a Destroyer record. I don't like the band, but i don't hate them. I find their music pleasant and non-threatening, but it just doesn't really thrill me. Unlike say, our bartender, who was ecstatic to share this music with someone. Neither of us were as excited, but it's not like he was trying to make us listen to Billy Joel, or The Eagles, or something utterly repugnant like that.
At some point i remarked to the girl that my favorite part of Destroyer is their drummer, Scott Morgan, who records mellow ambient dub as Loscil. This is not a type of music to appeal to an admitted Deadhead, but i really enjoy the work of Loscil.
It turns out that Loscil released a new record (his 12th!) this summer. He is also, apparently, no longer involved with Destroyer. I guess that being an ambient artist takes a lot of time and precludes you from touring and other drum-related activities. Or something like that.
I have reviewed Loscil here before. His music is ambient electronica that ebbs and flows, usually with subtle pulsing beats. I like to have this music playing in the background as i work, cook, clean, or go about my life. The subtle tones and mellow, meandering nature of the songs seems to accentuate life. After all, that is what ambient music is for!
Loscil's music also works well for focused listening. I enjoy sitting and just listening to ambient music, but I know that other people (such as a certain Deadhead i know) find this music to be unbearably boring when the subject of focused listening. By now, anyone still reading this blog should know where they fall on that spectrum.
All of Loscil's records have themes. I guess with music as intellectualized (that is, “mentally internal”) as ambient music is, it helps to have a framework upon which to focus the music. Loscil has released a record about bridges, and one about submarines that i particularly liked. Equivalents is about "an influential series of early 20th century photographs by Alfred Stieglitz, abstracting clouds into miasmic, painterly canvases of smoke and shadowplay." (That quote comes from his Kranky page.)
Clouds are a good representation of ambient music. They are amorphous, they tend to move slowly, at times their direction of movement can seem random, and they are often considered cold (a term that i hear non ambient fans apply to the genre). It is also true that clouds are a sort of natural Rorschach test, as in the common cartoon trope of characters looking at clouds and deciding on shapes in the randomness. Ambient also can be a sort of musical Rorschach test: the gentle tones and ebbing flowing sounds can serve to amplify or mute your current mood, depending on how you think about the sounds.
So, this is ambient dub by the guy who used to play drums in an indie rock band that i am generally unimpressed with, and he took as his inspiration a series of photos of clouds.
I think that sentence is, really, this whole review. Read that sentence, and if you are interested go and track this down. Otherwise you will probably want to skip it.
That said, for fans of the genre there is a lot to like here.
The album consists of eight different pieces which are titled Equivalent #. They are not, however, presented in chronological order, which confuses me. I guess he wrote the pieces while contemplating / staring at the various photos in the series. Still, it seems to me that they should be arranged in order, but they are not. Whatever.
I think that Equivalent 6 and the track after it, Equivalent 5 are the most "Loscil" of the tracks here. The tracks on this record are more beatless than Loscil normally uses. Not to say that regularly he is Roni Size, but his music tends to pulse in rhythmic patterns, whereas the flow of the songs here is more amorphous, which is befitting of his subject matter.
However, Equivalent 6 and Equivalent 5 are the two tracks from this record that would fit seamlessly on a previous Loscil record. Equivalent 6 is a sparse ringing song, the sounds echoing and slowly growing, twisting around each other. Equivalent 5 has moments of extreme faintness, the sounds just barely there, but it swells up in the middle to an impressive density, before fading back out. Both tracks are very lovely.
I also like the sparseness that he plays with here in, especially: Equivalent 3, which has a coda that reminds me of Aphex Twins' SAW2; Equivalent 2, which bubbles and swells in a way that sounds really amazing on headphones; and album closer Equivalent 4, a barely there song that sort of fades out, ending the whole experience of the record.
If you like this sort of thing, it's great. Loscil continues to impress. Part of me wants to go listen to early Destroyer records to hear him drumming, but i somehow doubt that the two experiences are in any way similar. Oh well, the Bog Brewing bartender can keep his Destroyer pop records, and i will stick with Loscil's ambient.