20 October 2009

Simon Scott: "Navigare"

I had the opportunity to interview Simon Scott back in May (link). It has been an amazing experience, as a fan, to listen to Simon Scott since his days in the Charlottes and Slowdive, pioneering shoegazing, to his collaboration with other musicians and now his solo album, “Navigare” (12 October 2009). What I respect the most about this album is that this is not Slowdive, this is not his past projects – this is new, this is the artistic development of a conscientious artist once again challenging his listener to think of music in a different way. Ambient / electronic, but miles away from generic, radio friendly techno or electropop, Scott again treads through unmapped terrains of music and continues to be not just a godfather in the music scene, but the pioneer he has always been.

Scott is more than a musician these days; as the owner of Keshhhhh, Scott is able to have his finger on the pulse of new, emerging musical trends, while having the singular ability to re-release near forgotten albums to be rediscovered by new audiences. And all the collaborations have also increased his exposure to music, being able to be a part of writing and recording (and performing) under different formats and scenarios. All of this helps artists grow, and this is something that Scott understands. His experiences are not meant to be self-promotional or egotistic cameos, but the continued study of and engagement with his craft. And this shows on “Navigare.” If you are expecting another Slowdive album, you are going to be taken a bit aback; but, if you are a fan of the artist, who is always unraveling something new, “Navigare” is going to take you by surprise.

The album opens with “Introduction of Cambridge,” which is an ethereal experience that supplants melody and rhythm for mood and emotional subtlety. Following effortlessly into the second track, “Under Crumbling Skies,” the ethereal slowly starts to give way in favor of more definitive sounds by the end of the track. Building on the momentum, “Flood Inn,” the third track, sees a gritty percussion being introduced, but the ethereal is never lost, not completely, anywhere on the album. Actually, the album flows with ease from track to track, as Scott balances the ethereal and gritty, the musical and the emotional. Then there is the one track on the album that is the culmination of Scott’s experiences: “The ACC.” I think it would be a mistake to say that this song harkens back to his shoegazing / dream pop days; instead I see it as his conscious incorporation of older musical ideas with the newer elements of his repertoire. He is not looking back, but rather merging the past and present into one.

There are two tricks when it comes to ambient music, both equally as challenging. The first is incorporating the right sounds. With a wider range of what is possible, the process of selecting the right sounds can be overwhelming to any artist who relies heavily on electronic sources. But Simon Scott hits the nail on the head over and over again. Fluctuating between analogue and digital sounds, the sounds on the album work together, and not in competition for attention. The sounds work for the singular purpose of eliciting visceral responses. But to accomplish this, one must take a hard look at the second trick, mixing it down. Scott has already proven himself a master in this department with his shoegazing experience, and even though he is shifting from rock to ambient music, he proves his mastery is universal and timeless. By allowing the most empathic elements of the music to take precedent, the mixing of the album allows for maximum visceral impact. This is really not just an album; this is a study of just how deep-seated music is to the human experience and emotions. Advice: Stop thinking and start listening to this album.

Track Listing:
1. Introduction of Cambridge
2. Under Crumbling Skies
3. Flood Inn
4. Derelict Days
5. Repulse
6. The ACC
7. The Old Jug and Drum
8. Ashma
9. Spring Stars
10. The Night and the Artificial Light

Keep up with Simon Scott at his MySpace. Keep up with Scott’s label Keshhhhh.

And don’t forget to check out Scott and the other artists at Miasmah.

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