Loscil extrapolates an entire universe from a single phrase on triumphant album, ‘Clara’

In Magazine, Reviews by Editor

Photo by Ted Bois

That ‘Loscil’, the moniker of Canadian sound artist Scott Morgan, is taken from an abbreviation for “looping oscillator” is an act of nomenclature that deftly echoes Morgan’s creative practice; deconstructing the familiar and sculpting from the pieces something completely new. This modus operandi, executed with a distinct sense of fervour has established Morgan as a formidable sonic visionary. His work as Loscil has seen him preoccupied with the musical potential of various objects, recordings, and aesthetic devices to the point of fixation, remixing and warping his source material into ethereal and captivating manifestos on his subject matter. Clara arrives as the latest addition to a long line of these experimental collections, released via Kranky

On Clara, Morgan is concerned with a short recorded musical phrase, in this case a three minute long classical piece performed by a 22-string orchestra from Budapest. Over the course of Clara’s ten undulating tracks, Morgan bends and warps this phrase to create new ones, building an entire parallel universe of sound. Clara mostly leans into neo-classical ambience, but does so with vastly contrasting shades and atmospheres. This sort of sonic chiaroscuro makes for an arresting experience. The manner in which Morgan plays with the familiar sounds of strings makes them at once bewitchingly enigmatic; arpeggios of harps become extraterrestrial synths on tracks like Lumina and orchestral passages are pulled to the point at which they languidly ooze. Aura best exemplifies this latter methodology. Composed mostly of ambient passages (presumably the result of extending a phrase from his source material to its near limits), the magic of the track lies in its structure. Morgan arranges these passages in a way that turns sharply from darkness to light, shadow to effervescence and in doing so creates something entirely transcendent in its scope. 

In fact, it is the scope of Clara, taken within the context of its source material, that makes the work feel so triumphant. That Morgan executes his vision from just three minutes of recorded sound is something to behold. Moments of the source material’s organic form peek out through Morgan’s dramatic soundscapes at times. On Stella they are just there, softly fluttering beneath washes of sound that ominously roll forward like waves before settling into their own droning depths. These orchestral apparitions reveal in Clara a pneuma of hauntology, its past form never quite dissipating fully into its present.  

Morgan is the type of electronic musician that meets technology as the potential to conjure the unknown. He utilises this technology foremost as an instrument with seemingly infinite playing potential, and his wildly innovative compositions reveal him to possess the brilliant sense of curiosity needed to plunge those depths of possibility. On Clara he pulls forth a study in light and shade, a work in abstraction that uncovers the contrasting ephemeral potentialities of the material world. It’s at once captivating, and a most rewarding listening experience. 

Listen to Aura below, and download Clara here

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