As Loscil, composer/producer Scott Morgan creates ambient music that drifts between the intuitive and the intellectual with deceptively easy grace.
Since his 2001 debut album, Triple Point, a set of evocative tracks revolving around thermodynamics, he's shaped his masterful atmospheres and delicate, almost subliminal melodies with conceptual frameworks. The history and striking geography of southwestern British Columbia -- especially his hometown of Vancouver -- inspired some of his finest albums, including 2004's First Narrows (his first work to blend live instrumentation with electronics), 2012's Sketches from New Brighton, and 2014's Sea Island. While Morgan expanded his focus with 2016's ecologically minded Monument Builders and the meditations on creativity of 2019's Equivalents, the vast yet intimate feel of his music remained.
Born and raised in Vancouver, Morgan moved from the city's eastern suburbs to Courtenay on Vancouver Island as a boy. In his teens and twenties, he grew bored of the island's stillness, and channeled his restlessness into the bands he played with, which later included a stint as the drummer for Destroyer. However, studying communications and music at Simon Fraser University opened Morgan to the possibilities of experimental and electronic music. As he trained to be a sound designer and director, he learned about the fundamentals of computer music as well as the work of 20th century experimental composers like John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen.
Morgan's education shaped the music he was making on his own. Taking the term "loscil" (a combination of "loop" and "oscillate") from the audio programming language Csound, he began performing his minimalist dub/techno/ambient-inspired tracks at a friend's independent theater. He made a demo album, A New Demonstration of Thermodynamic Tendencies, named after and inspired by a physics textbook Morgan found at a used book store. After a friend suggested he send the demo to Kranky, the label signed him and, following a few tweaks, released it as Loscil's debut album. Arriving in October 2001, Triple Point introduced the conceptual basis of Morgan's music and his abstract yet vivid style. Following a European tour with Stars of the Lid, Morgan started work on Loscil's second album. This time, he looked to underwater craft for his music's emotional and thematic coherence and used heavily processed samples of classical music to convey its aqueous depth. Submers, which appeared in November 2002, included a touching requiem for the crew of ill-fated Russian nuclear vessel Kursk.
For his next album, Morgan used a much wider range of sound sources. Along with samples, found sounds, and computer-generated tones, he also incorporated live instrumentation into the work. Inspired by Vancouver's Lion's Gate Bridge, May 2004's First Narrows featured Fender Rhodes courtesy of Zumpano's Jason Zumpano, along with contributions from Destroyer guitarist Tim Loewen and cellist Nyla Rany. At this point, Morgan was still Destroyer's drummer, and his remix of the band's 2006 album Destroyer's Rubies, "Loscil's Rubies," appeared on its vinyl release. That May, Morgan also issued Plume, which reunited him with Zumpano and featured xylophonist Josh August Lindstrom alongside guitarists Krista Michelle Marshall and Stephen Wood.
Loscil returned in 2009 with Strathcona Variations, an EP for Ghostly International that ranged from minimalism to orchestral heights. With March 2010's somber Endless Falls, Morgan took another step forward; the album's final track showcased the vocals of his Destroyer bandmate Dan Bejar. The Italian label Glacial Movements issued Coast/Range/Arc, a piece inspired by the Coast Mountains, as a limited-edition release in June 2011. Morgan's next pair of albums showcased different sides of his hometown. Appearing in September 2012, Sketches from New Brighton took its name from an oceanside park in Vancouver that was considered to be the city's birthplace. The album spawned the following year's Intervalo, a reworking of several Sketches from New Brighton tracks with pianist Kelly Wyse. In November 2014, Morgan and Wyse reunited for Sea Island, which drew inspiration from the isle that is home to Vancouver's international airport. That year, Loscil also appeared on a split EP with Fieldhead.
Morgan's 2015 works included the For Greta EP, a benefit release for a friend's daughter who was battling bone cancer, and the interactive smartphone EP Adrift, which incorporates the elements of each track differently each time it plays. A warped VHS copy of Koyaanisqatsi, as well as the writing of philosopher John Gray and the photography of Edward Burtynsky, shaped Morgan's vision for November 2016's pensive full-length Monument Builders. The next year, collaborations with Seabuckthorn and Lost Trail arrived. In 2018, Morgan self-released Bannockburn, an extended version of one of the tracks from Adrift. In August 2019, he issued Equivalents, an album inspired by a series of moody, early 20th century photographs of clouds by renowned photographer and artist Alfred Stieglitz. ~ Heather Phares & John Bush, Rovi