“Sea Island” is the latest excursion from Canada’s loscil. The Vancouver-based musician has always produced coolly evocative ambient-electronic music, and “Sea Island” is no different. His music rolls in on a grey band of fog. Higher chimes, which are usually bright and clear, are left tonally dull. Rhythms interweave with other rhythms, creating multiple bleeps that flicker in tandem like traffic lights on a town’s main street junction. His music has a placid, rainy mood, dripping with the cool moisture of a harbour. Sometimes, a pulsating electronic tone plays the role of a bass note, underpinning the tones that sit and play on top, but it skitters and jitters occasionally, too.
Like a navigational compass, the tones zone in on a serene place where the light, fluttering blips of transmitting data and the dry intermissions of a radio frequency pass through the air. Strong, sporadic rhythms leave the boat (the music), beaming out a regular sequence of notes, a regular signal. At first, the polyrhythms and their detailed rhythmic interplay take centre stage, but other bleeps and blips let the music lapse, drifting in a pool of ambient liquid that dissipates and moves when it comes into contact with another tone, another life.
The music is a little murky at times, straying towards a part of the sea poisoned by pollutants. Oil spills out onto the music, covering the track with a thicker, throbbing bass that squelches against the muddy sediment. As listeners, we ride the waves, but they sit low in the calm shallows of the sea. Light, female calls roll in on the fog, close by and yet elusive. It isn’t all easy going, though. ‘Sea Island Murders’ has sporadic, repeated stabs that cut the music in and out. It lurches the music forward and destroys the tight, rhythmic cabin that’s just been built. But interestingly, it creates its own schizophrenic rhythm. The unsolved crime, the drizzly mystery, would be perfect for a film such as “Insomnia”. A piano rolls slowly against the side of the boat. The frail light dims against the cliff, sliding downwards and leaving behind transient shadows. Repeating patterns come up to the surface, interspersed by bubbles of airy electronics. The foam helps to clean the tones of their murky past.
A cool atmosphere lies all around Sea Island. It has a peaceful vibe that accepts the landscape it finds itself in. The underlying drone is always a low one, which helps to give the atmosphere an overcast, grey and heavy feel. It borders on the oppressive, but it never reaches that stage. Instead, it’s a cool blast of fresh air straight from the depths of the north.
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