Album Reviews

Loscil – Clara

(Kranky) UK release date: 28 May 2021

Loscil - Clara Elegiac, poignant, ponderous: Clara inhabits these emotions for its 70-minute duration, an immersive experience drawn from a limited sample source for maximum sonic coherency. Loscil, the electronica/ambient project from Vancouverite Scott Morgan, aims for hypnosis, with chord sequences and loops stretching out effortlessly and indefinitely, but utilises a judicious range of tricks to keep the record moving along.

Lux kicks things off naturalistically as grand orchestral swells are offset by sustained higher notes, a contrast reminiscent of crashing waves and a full moon’s glow. Lumina follows with more typical dubby ambience but is no less enchanting for it, sonorous bass tones and a tapping pulse that invokes footsteps while a soft triple-time arpeggiator burbles away, adding interesting cross-rhythms to the mix.

Clara is deeply wedded to the notion of decay – the 7” containing the record’s sample source was deliberately damaged – and this shows in tracks like Stella. In the song’s second half mellow pads are supplemented by crackling strings, cutting in and out in a fascinating bastardisation of conventional musicality. How many times has a sappy string section been used as a shortcut to emotion? In this section the audible faltering of the cliché is itself emotionally weighty, hinting at a world more nuanced than a Hollywood OST.

The textures here are generally gentle, but Aura ups the intensity as the chords fade almost to silence before blaring out once more. White noise is buffeted about by an erratic tremolo effect (as is the synth overtone on smooth yet melancholy Vespera) and reverb-laden ambience gradually fills the gaps. That sense of dynamism continues in the title track, a drone in G-sharp that melds orchestra and synth into an almighty crescendo.

Clara is a supremely accomplished record, and deserves to sit with previous career highlights like Submers and Monument Builders as a masterclass in abstract electronica.

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