Last year, Canadian composer and sound designer Loscil released the triumphant Clara. It was an album that explored depth and vastness. Meditative and spiritual in quality, Clara presented gorgeously imagined pieces of ambient soundscape and orchestral string experimentations. With his latest work, the Sails series, Loscil turns toward the physical. A collection of music designed for dance performance, with the The Sails, Loscil applies his theory to matters of the body and movement. Commissioned by choreographers specifically for pieces of dance, some only performed one, The Sails collection is a look into another facet of the sound designer’s craft. Part 1 contained atmospheric and enigmatic works of sound design, such as the acidic synth chug of Container or waves of distorted ambience, as heard on Twenty-One.
The Sails Pt.2 opens with the undulating Blue, an amoeba-like composition full of modulating arpeggios and a constant electronic drone. Soft, organic percussion drives the composition along, conjuring images of aquatic life forms and the soft-focus ambience of the ocean. On Dote, a primordial beat simmers quietly beneath ambient washes and a stuttered wind instrument, growing in intensity like some sort of sacred ritual. On Downstream, cascading synths and rhythmic rattles arise out of nothingness, an urgency in their motion. Tracks like the stunning Century meanwhile return to the ambience of Clara, coming in waves of sound that glows as it ebbs and flows. Floating looks toward the aerostat qualities of wind, light and buoyant yet sweeping at the same time. There’s something clearer in scope to Part 2 than its predecessor, perhaps a more wisened curation and editing of this music.
The most striking thing about these compositions is how they relate to various qualities of movement. It’s almost like an adopted medium of storytelling for Loscil, crafting his sounds around the body in motion. On tracks like Ink, you can feel the way the body of the dancer might respond to Loscil’s sonic cues. While not as immediately arresting as Clara, it’s apparent that The Sails is an archiving of a conversation happening between sound and the body. The record stretches beyond the music; it is a documentation of a moment, a cenotaph to the fleeting yet prescient quality of performance. It’s immersive, escapist listening that allows you to explore these ephemeral, alternate worlds and visions of whatever Loscil and his collaborators have dreamt up.