Conversations with Loscil

We last spoke more than a year ago (wow, can you believe that?), after your release Endless Falls on Kranky. So what have you been up to since then?
A year goes by fast indeed. In the last year I have created and released Coast/Range/Arc with Glacial Movements and have started work on another album – though it’s a ways off. I’ve played a couple shows with a small ensemble (with my pals Jason Zumpano and Shane Nelken on Rhodes and guitar). I’ve curated a disc for the second Air Texture release and I’ve created a couple of tracks for the odd compilation.

Your latest release has a peculiar name. Care to shed some light on it?
Coast/Range/Arc is named after the volcanic arc of the Pacific Northwest. I have a pretty nice view of the North Shore mountains from my office window – in fact I can see Goat Mountain which one of the tracks is named after. I spend a fair amount of time in the mountains and look at them every day from my office. I’ve been to a few of the places whose names I used on the record like Black Tusk and as is customary for me to do, I named the record after things I am absorbed with at the time. It didn’t hurt that the theme of Allessandro’s label is glaciers and places of isolation, so I was making a thematic connection with his curatorial direction as well.

How do your music capture the coastal mountains of the Pacific Northwest?
I’m not sure it does. A lot of thematic connections I make after I’ve created the music. I did have a basic concept in mind for creating some very slow developing pieces, again, mostly thinking about the Glacial Movements imprint and what would fit into their catalogue. I had been wanting to do another set of static works along the lines of Stases for a while and Alessandro getting in touch with me triggered some action on this. That being said, I think there is something about living among mountains and having access to them that changes your internal clock a bit. I suppose in a way I was trying to capture a stillness that you often experience when you’re in the mountains, especially really high up.

I have watched your music slowly evolve with the years and become more calm, minimal and restrained. What are your thoughts on that?
I’m getting older! Seriously, I enjoy the restraint to be honest. I like the tension and the pressure of really staying minimal. It’s easy in some ways to get distracted by musical frills and I think it takes a lot of concentration to strip things right down and avoid letting the “noodling” take over. I’m also a big fan of soundtrack music – the style of background listening of scores really appeals to me – so I think I’m striving for something similar to that feel all the time; a place where the music exists but doesn’t exist.

On the latest release it seems that you have limited yourself to a certain palette of sounds. What was a particular aesthetic that you have tried to achieve?
Well, as I said before, I was interested in another set of drone works along the lines of Stases. My starting point was a handful of recordings I had made in the forest – mostly of rivers and creeks. So I was looking to create something that didn’t move very much but had some slight sense of direction – I wanted to try to create dense textures and clouds of sound that you couldn’t really escape. Honestly, many of the tracks feel to me like they could be much longer. I kind of imagine them better suited to generative music where they could essentially be left running forever.

What is your composition process like? How long do you work on a particular piece? How often do you revisit completed tracks to “update” them to a unifying theme of the album?
It changes slightly piece to piece and album to album. The process for Coast/Range/Arc was a little different than usual for me. I composed primarily “offline” rather than in a performative way. These pieces are much more structured than performed and because of that, I returned to them often, tweaking all kinds of elements to get a balance. Most of my past albums involved “performing” – almost improvising – in the same way I would live and recording the output to the computer. Then if I’m adding live players I can record them overtop and edit/mix the whole thing down in the end. I don’t tend to update anything to fit into a theme but I might omit tracks or decide I need a new track to fill a certain void. This is a kind of last-minute editorial pass.

So what are you working on now?
I’ve recorded a few new pieces with the ensemble I mentioned earlier. I need to mix these still but my time is pretty filled with work and family at the moment so we’ll see. I’ve also begun a collaboration with my friend Jason Zumpano where he has given me 6 piano pieces to “go to town with” and I will be providing him 6 electronic tracks as well. We’re going to work on each other’s material and just see what happens. It may end up taking on a life of its own. We shall see.

Be sure to also read Two and a Half Questions with Loscil from 2010.

See Headphone Commute’s review of Coast/ Range/ Arc (Glacial Movements)