Clara by loscil

Release date: May 28, 2021
Label: kranky

Once again Scott loscil Morgan brings you the impressive and immersive drones and tones. Clara is a new set of lush abstracts from this sonic wizard, as rich, detailed and multilayered as we’ve come to expect. Where in the past he’s tied his drifting clouds of textures to ideas about photography or landscape, blending field recordings and electronic pulses this time out the framework comes from a single limited sound source. The resulting work putting me in mind of Blake’s “To see a World in a Grain of Sand, And a Heaven in a Wild Flower.” Here Morgan applies his acoustic alchemy to drawing a 7-inch single out to 70 minutes of ambient wonder.

In Budapest a 22 piece orchestra records a three minute composition. The degree to which Morgan controlled this element of the process is unclear but then again, ultimately beside the point. That recording was lathe cut to a single which was then variously abused and mistreated to give extra surface colour to the sound. The whole of Clara is sampled and sculpted from this one record. The mechanics of its creation throw up some conceptual questions about music. Such as the balance of chance elements and artistic control or blurring of the lines between the ‘organic’ strings of the orchestra and any perceived ‘artifice’ of electronic processing. However the results are not dry and academic but, if you commit your full attention, deep and rather cosmic.

As usual with instrumental music it can be helpful to try and shake off these sort of jump off points or suggested subject matter and just see what you get from listening to it. Clara rarely sounds like an orchestra, if at all. The tell-tale instrumental attack of bow on strings is burned off into hazy textures. The sound loscil preserves is the rich resonant tone of the orchestra. Leaving something akin to wordless singing or the sound of the instruments breathing. ‘Lux’ begins the album with soft sighs, on ‘Sol’ it becomes a little unsettling, a shallow, assisted, breathing. Steady as a metronome against a warping backwards loop and bubbling pizzicato.

As little as it sounds orchestral it’s much less the sort of busy cut ‘n’ paste sampling from old singles we’re used to but a couple of tracks do have rhythmic elements that seem to stem from the damage done to the surface of the groove. ‘Lumina’ has a steady loop like footsteps forever receding down the hall. On ‘Vespera’ it’s softer, a shaker or brushes, here it gets so quiet that the world wanders in. This is something that happens across the album, even on headphones traffic, birds, rain are all at home in the flow of sound, like music made from clouds and the distant roar of airplanes.

From a sombre start ‘Stella’ turns extraordinarily peaceful with a soft tidal pull under it. It gets slow, slow, slower. The closing title track ‘Clara’ is an ominous drone. Dark and deep it is both dreadful and calming at once. The sorrowful sound an orchestra’s funeral or of the celestial conveyor belt as you pass into the afterlife. Staring into the vast inky blackness as you drift between planes it’s empty and yet all encompassing, as if Morgan has tapped into the universal hum. Coming back then to Blake to “Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand, And Eternity in an hour”

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