oscil is all about concept. On his first record, Triple Point, Scott Morgan asked us to imagine thermodynamics- with each song pointing towards a particular element or concept that was connected to it. On his sophomore record, Submers, Morgan now asks to imagine again, but this time it is submarines.
Each song on Submers refers to a particular submarine, while attempting to evoke what underwater sea travel might sound like. Appropriately, the only reasonable way to describe the textures invoked by Morgan on this release is aquatic. Each song ebbs and flows as though there is a tidal rhythm, something governing its actions. It is both the delicate control and the subtle organization of elements that makes Submers such a success in the field of ambient music.
“Argonaut 1” mixes a loud synthetic bed, which contains a rhythmic underpinning that casually makes itself known. The rhythm gradually reveals itself over the length of the song and fades in and out at appropriate moments. Other elements mix in and out of the track effortlessly complementing the oscillating melodic figure. The complete mixture of each element, allowing none to completely overtake the song, is an enveloping one and as the song fades out it seems as though it is a voyeuristic journey has taken place. It is, as though, the journey would continue whether anyone is there to hear or not. Perhaps each song, then, would be best described as a snapshot of each submarine and its character, allowing us to peer in or even take part in the unfolding of its elements, if we so choose.
The gem of the album comes at the end. “Kursk” commemorates the lost members of the Russian sub and also paints an evocative picture that is reminiscent of some of the best ambient music. The track begins with a drawn out tone. It moves on, changing only slightly, until a panning rhythm is brought in softly underneath the large amount of atmospherics. These atmospherics dominate the tracks entirety, sometimes swelling to a crescendo of volume, but often maintaining an uncomfortable stasis- one borne of quiet desperation and longing.
Brian Eno, the acknowledged forefather of ambient music, said that this type of music must be, at once, “as ignorable as it is interesting”. Loscil is certainly producing albums that are both of these, but each and every listener would be doing themselves a disservice if they only picked the latter as the criteria for a purchase.
Over the course of his two “concept” albums, Loscil has positioned himself as one of the most vital ambient producers today, along with Kompakt’s Markus Guentner.