Simon Scott is the drummer for UK shoegazers Slowdive but his career as a solo artist finds him on a delightful diversion. After making two albums under the Miasmah label, the drummer-turned-multi-instrumentalist/ambient sound architect makes his Ash International debut with the not-inappropriately named Insomni. Naturally, Scott didn’t abandon all of the musical inclinations that he acquired from his day job, but an album like Insomni is able to encompass a great deal more depth without portraying its author as some snooty musical know-it-all. It manages to carry a very natural feel while, at the same time, sounding like little else in the public’s periphery.
From the “Description” in Insomni‘s press release, it sounds like Simon Scott assembled the instruments used for his album the way other people pick up pieces of junk on a long walk home. Aside from the conventional suspects like six- and 12-string guitars and a smattering of recording software, he gives credit to a fish tank, a DVD player, and a broken laptop. There is a Buddha machine at work, a hydrophone, a magnetic pick up on its own, and a very specific kind of microphone. It appears that Scott is following in the footsteps of Rafael Toral types who seem to stumble upon their “music” through a series of highly-calibrated accidents; place a thing next to the microphone, make it do something, feed it through some other thing, loop it, then use that as a backdrop for your next sound. If the artist repeats the steps enough times and adds just enough effects, the sources can be obfuscated and the resulting sound can be enjoyed as a seemingly organic piece of music.
Insomni is a nighttime, earbud experience—that’s the only way some of these tracks will actually register. If you own a VU meter, let me know if you got a reading at all on “Holme Pasts”, the nearly non-existent second track. Some moments stay the course with their soft drone while others mutate in subtle ways. “Oaks Grow Strong” is an example of this where a seemingly new age start gives way to plenty of troubling buzz and stray static. After the tortuously soft “Fen Drove”, “Nember” enters the picture with a tonal acoustic guitar figure (just note, there is a generous amount of reverb added). Even “Far From the Tree” proves that Scott is a pretty competent fingerstyle guitarist, though the finger scrapes do give off more squeak than is probably necessary. Such is a pitfall of wound bronze.
It’s one thing to make an album that is “different” from your band or your peers but it’s a whole other achievement entirely to make such a captivating one that cements such a strong new creative endeavor. This is the path that Simon Scott has been foraging for a while now. By following him and by keeping a few steps behind whatever muse he chases down this solitary trail, we may unveil hidden treasures that we can’t yet explain.
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