I promise, that shortly, I’ll let up on the Ballard. But this one really is a Ballardian record. A sad and beautiful record. An emotive and human piece of music made mostly with sampling technology. It has a subtly dystopian sci-fi feel to it, no bombast or ‘ooh spooky’ noises like you get with more self conciously ‘dark ambient’ projects but it’s there. Loscil has been making music since the turn of the century, mostly on Kranky, which helps explain his mastery and subtlety. I feel I have some catching up to do having only got on board with his last ‘Sea Island’ which was melancholy and beautiful, ‘Monument Builders’ takes a darker turn. Pulses, glitching rhythms and uneasy rising drones pull it away from the warm ambient floatation tank. The first track is called ‘Drained Lake’. If that’s not Ballardian enough we can look to Scott ‘Loscil’ Morgan’s own ideas about what informed this music – A disintegrating, and distorting old video copy of Koyaanisqatsi and Philip Glass’ score. “Glass has always been an inﬂuence but lo-ﬁ Glass felt like a minor revelation, as if the decay was actually enhancing the impact of the ﬁlm’s message.” The aerial photography of Edward Burtynsky, which pictures disused buildings and evidence of human activity in the landscape echoing many of the sections of Koyaanisqatsi (The picture below of an aeroplane graveyard is Burtynsky’s). Combined with John Gray’s remarkable, bleak and provocative ‘Straw Dogs’ which shares its title here with a slow rising tide of claustrophobic panic that cuts out abruptly tipping us into ‘Deceiver’. Scott, we might gather, was not in the sunniest of moods. JG Ballard made ‘Straw Dogs’ his book of the year for 2002. It was elsewhere disparaged as ‘a blend of nihilism and new age nonsense’ a phrase that might serve equally erroneously as a harsh critique of this record. As I recall ‘Straw Dogs’ seemed most worthwhile when I disagreed with him and as you read through the book it seemed to wash away into greater, more open ended questions. Gray kicks away merrily at our delusions of self determination, essential human goodness and progress but is careful not to try and replace them. I didn’t find it despairing myself. Technology will progress but human nature will not, how about that? We’re the monument builders of course, straw dogs and deceivers. Final track ‘Weeds’ conjurs a familiar mental image of nature reclaiming the concrete waste when we’re gone, bleak but hopeful.
“Heaven and Earth are heartless / treating creatures like straw dogs”.
Apophenia /æpoʊˈfiːniə/ is the human tendency to perceive meaningful patterns within random data