Coast / Range / Arc
Though Scott Morgan has issued much of his Loscil material on the Chicago-based kranky label, Glacial Movements would seem to be a much more natural home for the electronic composer. Both the artist and label, in this case, favour restraint over excess in their productions and both bring a real-world or environmental dimension to their works (Submers perhaps the clearest example in Loscil's case, given that all nine of its tracks are named after submarines). At the very least, the change of label locale has witnessed a notable change in the Loscil sound, with Morgan scaling his approach back even further beyond its normally understated presentation to a style that invites even more of an isolationist ambient characterization. On Coast/Range/Arc, beats are absent altogether in a collection that sees its six settings stripped down to their elemental essence. The pieces are long-form in design, with three tipping past the ten-minute mark, and are ideally experienced as headphones listening material.
The material takes its inspiration from the coastal mountains of the Pacific Northwest (a region no doubt familiar to the Vancouver, BC-based Morgan), whose grandeur is bolstered by the presence of glaciers, lakes, waterfalls, and canyons. It's not hard to hear a parallel between the slow-motion developments within Morgan's pieces and the shifts that occur imperceptibly in natural phenomena. Along those lines, the opener “Black Tusk” swells gradually into an immense drone of subtly modulating character that's grounded by uninterrupted swathes of organ-like flow and smothered in enigmatic textures of flutter, ripple, and static. Its huge blocks of sound are hardly unchanging, however; close listening reveals, for example, the subliminal presence of a faint whistling sound that arises during the piece's final moments. In contrast to the monolithic aura of the opening piece, “Fromme” frames ambient washes and a chugging synth pattern with the animated burble of water. Morgan drapes synthetic string tones across “Stave Peak” in sparse manner, with ambient breaths audible in the spaces separating the strings. Unlike the warmth exuded by the strings in “Stave Peak,” “Névé” paints a more threatening picture, with the faint wailing of a choir seemingly audible at the center of the cavernous vortex sculpted by Morgan. That human element may be the imagined outgrowth of a hallucination but the track's mystery-laden material is tailor-made for engendering such flights of fancy. “Brohm Ridge” comes across like the relatively peaceful aftermath of the threat posed by “Névé,” even if the sheets of black ice and dark, muffled tones that ebb and flow throughout “Brohm Ridge” ooze a particular menace of their own. The muffled horn tones extending through “Goat Mountain” suggest the grandiose vistas of Wagner or Richard Strauss (the latter's Eine Alpensinfonie [An Alpine Symphony], for example). Each of Coast/Range/Arc's settings creates the impression of having been born in a different geographical place with different natural elements—ice, wind, water, for instance—consecutive points of emphasis, and in terms of compositional development, the tracks are some of the most epic Morgan has released. Among other things, he draws the listener's attention to the myriad array of impressions we experience in our encounters with the natural world, with everything from awe and rapture to terror part of the kaleidoscopic mix.