Thesis II – Loscil & Seabuckthorn

Thesis 2 is the second collaboration in an ongoing series, this time uniting artists Loscil and Seabuckthorn. Staying within the keys of C and A# (fitting the tuning of the guitar), layered drones sit underneath the open tunings. The clanging and crisp strings ring out with a bright snap, and they’re in sharp contrast to the darkly meditative harmony that hangs in the air like a low, overcast sky. Tonally, they’re both very different; opposites are attracting.

On ‘The River Cold & Primal’, a bass growls, preparing for a red-eyed storm which never arrives. The guitar’s keeping it at bay, helping the music to stand up as well as providing the song with some gulps of Lucozade to counteract the slower-to-form textures. The guitar’s tempo is measured at first, but the notes begin to gallop along. There’s something of the old West here: an atmosphere draped in torn clothing and an atmosphere that’s inherited a simpler way of life; a time when the United States of America really was united and not torn in two, but the music’s also entwined in the present day. The music’s a keepsake that’s slowly beginning to rust, one that was lovingly hand-crafted in a bygone era, and in an era that can never be revived. Seabuckthorn’s strings rattle and occasionally buzz in the face of a harder attack, bringing instrumental purity and authenticity to the music. A cool atmosphere descends over the prairie.

The drones are resting in a place of serenity, with one part of the music staying in the background and one part being softly illuminated by the cool backlighting. Everything’s balanced. The sounds are as fresh as mountain air, and the two very different instruments clash wonderfully. The sample-based instruments, built on a computer, produce very different timbres in comparison to the more organic guitar, but while the guitar is a physical instrument (from the old school), the computer can, to a certain extent, become one as well, swapping its own software for velvet skin, slowly entering the realms of instrumentation with its multiple sources of sound. Its enviable level of dexterity means that many differing tones and hues can be used to shape the overarching mood. And this is what happens.

The guitar isn’t stuck to the rolling clouds and their deeper textures; it’s loose enough to play a melody or two. The coiling tones sit around the space, occupying it. The strings are darker and ill-lit as they walk through the old mausoleum of ‘Viscous’. Dry strings creep up the side of the music like a series of thirsty vines. Cracks appear in the crumbling walls, and the tilted notes tickle the brickwork of the darker, decaying building. The opening swells of ‘Dustclouds’ gently sway in the gathering gloom, the textures caught up in something bigger. The clouds are almost tidal as they approach, using their powerful, sweeping pillars as weapons of cloying dust. The drone is like mood quartz, and the guitar’s sensitive when it comes to gauging its mood. It plays in tune with it, around it, and in front of its scattered fog, while outside, the world around them swoons, lost in its own scatterings of ash.

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