Published Nov 16, 2016It only seems appropriate, given the end-times vibe that's dominated 2016, that Loscil's eighth full-length, Monument Builders, explores despair and hopelessness, and the beauty to be found in it.
"I wanted to force myself to get away from some of the themes that I've explored a lot over the years," the man born Scott Morgan tells Exclaim!, "environment and water — things that are strongly West Coast."
Those more "West Coast" themes included building albums around classical music (2001's Triple Point and 2002's Submers), the literature of the 1960s (2012's City Hospital) and the geography of his Vancouver hometown (2004's First Narrows, 2012's Sketches from New Brighton).
Monument Builders, which Morgan describes as "thematically darker and more intense," is made up of compact and digestible instrumentals that purposely sound warped, warn or damaged. He was inspired by rewatching a VHS copy of the 1982 experimental documentary Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance, and namely Philip Glass's soundtrack.
"I was playing around with fidelity, obviously I was attracted to that, just noise and interference and pitch — instability," Morgan explains. "I think the addition of the French horn is a little bit of a nod to Glass, and some of the simple and repetitive harmonics are also a bit of a nod."
Drawing additional influences from the imagery of St. Catharines photographer Edward Burtynsky — whose celebrated work depicts large scale images exploring the impact of industry — Morgan explains, "I have seen a bunch of his stuff online and it's like aerial footage of mining pits or places that have been environmentally impacted by industry. I guess there's a balance with some of the sounds I was looking for, where there's a calmness but there's sort a lurking, gritty foreboding quality to it. Finding that edge is a really interesting place to find."
In addition to the work of Burtynsky, Morgan also found himself drawn to British philosopher John Gray, whose writings have been called "anti-humanist."
"He's critical of the 'myth of progress,' this notion that we'll all be saved by our own intelligence," Morgan says. "I'm a firm believer in averting climate change and solving problems that we've created for ourselves, but at the end of the day, it's kinda like the earth doesn't need our saving. I think we have this notion that it's all about us, but really we're all just part of this whole bigger picture of what's going on and there's something both freeing and bleak about that."
Loscil's upcoming Canadian tour dates include Montreal on November 22, Kingston on November 23 and Toronto on November 24. Check out all the upcoming dates here.
Read about the inspiration for Loscil's "Drained Lake" video here or just watch the video below.
Monument Builders is out now on Kranky.