Simon Scott ~ Long Drove

Long Drove Album Cover

Simon Scott describes Long Drove, his latest release on Room40, as a “site-specific sound study which shifts the Anthropocene discourse from spectatorship to musical participation, accountability and creative engagement.”  Across the album he demonstrates his own collaboration with nature while inviting his listeners too, to step into the role of participant.

The album opens with a gentle melody accompanied by a light humming drone that recalls the buzzing of cicadas.  Other faint recordings surface and move across the space of the hazy stereo field of “The Black Fens.” Especially as the melody moves up a key in the songs third minute, both the grain of the synthetically rendered melody, as well as the melody itself, imbue the song with a sense of lightness, conveying a moody but lovely nostalgia.  Nostalgia gives way to a more vague affect on “Whittlesea Mere.” Extended, wavering drones are accompanied by crystalline, minimalist harmonies. The composition has an eerier mood that gets noisier as the track develops, its drones becoming increasingly coated in hiss, signal, and static, before eventually giving way to little more than the chirping of birds and the rustling of nature.

The melody and drone of the opening tracks serves as an entry point and then segue into the core of the album, which consists of field recordings Scott made in the Fens, a location in England close to his home.  Long Drove in particular is a pathway which connects two nature reserves that form part of a large habitat restoration project.  The middle of the album consists of tracks resulting from recordings Scott made at one location in the Fens, a “remote and nameless broken bridge.” They capture the exigencies of time and space— rain, wind, as well as the resonances of electricity and material.  If he manipulates recordings into melody and drone in surrounding tracks, the Holme Fen Posts I, II, and III, don’t aim to recover music or melody in natural sound but rather to (merely) dwell in the space of their capture.  On Holme Fen Posts III there does seem to be more human intervention, a percussive element that might be the “playing” of the bridge as an instrument that Scott alludes to in the album’s accompanying press release.  There is overall a sense of stillness and deepness through the album’s “vibratory” and minimalist middle section.

As with much sonic experimentation that sits on and queries the line dividing nature and sound from music, Scott’s album benefits from attention to the subtle context clues he offers that even his more melodic pieces might have their basis in his recordings of natural sound, something especially evident in the way in which he frames individual tracks and the album itself with natural sound.  There is a sense of urgency to the record, trafficked in the surprisingly dynamic looped recordings of the “Holme Fen Posts” pieces, but perhaps more strongly in the way in which the album is organized, initiated as listeners are into its more spartan middle by the aching opening and the minimalist closer, which faintly returns to that gentle processed melody of the opening.  (Jennifer Smart)

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