Canadian composer Scott Morgan has a natural ability when it comes to conjuring up overcast, grey-bodied drones and grounded atmospheres, both of which aren’t easy to dispel. As loscil, the cloudy, nebulous textures have become something of a mainstay, sticking around like an obdurate mass of grey sky in the middle of October. The Vancouver ambient musician’s low-pressured drones are made all the deeper for their realism, often depicting a cool Canadian shoreline or a rain-spattered harbour. Basslines throb to the rhythm of the sea; gulls catch the air currents overhead.
Equivalents (Kranky) is Morgan’s 12th LP as loscil. A series of cloud photographs, taken by Alfred Stieglitz and originating in the early 20th Century, became the inspiration for the album. For Stieglitz, the photograph was a metaphor as much as it was a visual image, constantly referring back to his state of mind, and his photographs are brandished in ‘smoke and shadowplay’. Together with Morgan’s musical output, the abstract photographs make for an easy marriage. Meteorological and emotional depression has been a feature of loscil’s work for some time, but never on this scale.
Stieglitz equated his photographs to ‘philosophical or emotional states of the mind’, and Morgan’s music is a similar expression in a different art-form, capturing despair, struggle, stress, trauma, hopelessness, confusion, and beauty. Equivalents wraps itself up, tentacle-like, in pensive thought. Roiling around, the pockets of air create turbulence, but thinner sheets occasionally emerge from their hiding place: a smudged melody shines through, penetrating the darker shapes with a sliver of gleaming sunshine, but even this is sandwiched between thick, silent, and temporary forms.
Drones remain low, whirring like helicopter blades. A muddied, throbbing bass, pulsing at regular intervals, shifts and slinks like a grey mushroom-mass of cloud, with enough body-weight to make tracks feel heavy and lethargic, and with enough high-end to make others feel wispy, delicate. Touching the harmony would disperse it, like a cobweb, but some of the tracks radiate an inner strength with their leaden drones and steely resolute. They have their own inner, pulsating rhythm, a regularity which gives the soundscape a powerful intensity if not the speed it needs to push on.
The atmospheric apparitions unfold in widescreen, but the drones are clumped together, a tight and almost claustrophobic texture hovering in negative space. Equivalents is in tune with the local weather conditions as well as those from 100 years ago, adapting and changing, passing from inescapable grey to glimpses of white light, from the transparency of cirrus to a sullen, stratospheric body of grey, not a single pocket or hole in its clothing.