The inspirational jumping-off points that electronic composer Scott Morgan has cited in regards to his latest album are a worn out VHS copy of Koyaanisqatsi, John Gray’s Straw Dogs, and Edward Burtynsky’s photographs of environmental pollution; a bleak trio of modern classics that leaves little guess as to the temperament of Monument Builders.
The album title’s reference to professional headstone makers is also given plural meaning by the lone concrete tower block supine on the cover art. A sense of cool reserve has been one of Loscil’s defining characteristics. However, immerse yourself in too many of the hard questions about human nature and destruction which become less avoidable every increasingly hot year, and you’re bound to come up simmering. Stoic but with a flash of menace in its eyes, Monument Builders wrestles with those realities rather than try to hold them at bay any longer.
Morgan has long favored dense but sanded textures, with songs that hum, skitter and steam in a compressed space. By utilizing samples of things like blowing wind and whistling tea kettles, Monument Builders would seem to take that one further, but it actually finds Loscil at its most expansive so far. From First Narrows to Sea Island, successive records have loosened the stiches a little bit more. Like a time lapse video of a blooming plant, the development has been incremental to the point that it hasn’t been easily identifiable in real time.
Compared to its predecessors, Monument Builders breathes deeper and more deliberately. Lead track “Drained Lake” reintroduces Sea Island’s sense of unease and disorients it with thudding low end. The heaviness of the album’s beats are its biggest surprise. Their weight seems to have stretched apart the stereo field, opening up room for the more familiar Loscil elements to spread out and allow for additions like the repeatedly implemented horns; muted on the title track, sonorous on “Straw Dogs”, and forewarning on “Anthropocene”.
Leaving listeners in the “Weeds” surrounded by a swirl of haunting whispers, Monument Builders doesn’t offer a happy ending, but nor is it devoid of hope. Perhaps Loscil’s most confrontational record, it processes the darkness in order to expunge it.