A three-minute composition is cut, chopped, and changed to form Clara, Loscil’s ambient record meditating on light, shade, and decay. Performed by a 22-piece string orchestra, the original piece is lost to Loscil’s manipulation, trading conventional structures for repeating textures and glacial soundscapes.
Knowing each track is far from its original form gives them a tangible sense of depth. Anxious rhythms on Lumina make any presence of light feel as if it’s coming from behind closed eyelids. On the expansive Stella, from the other side of thick ice. It is music to plunge into it, whether that is a vast pool on Lux or a deep sleep on Flamma. Sampling the string orchestra, Loscil makes the same instruments sound as much like water as a lullaby.
Much of ambient music is a similar balancing act. With little progression across 10-minute-long songs, what may be a highly affecting piece of music to someone may be a plodding bore to another. As pieces of the original composition gracefully come and go like the tide, small shifts in tone can feel seismic. When an ascending pattern enters halfway through Lumina, it’s like a sign of life, bubbles rising to the surface.
It’s not like Clara doesn’t reward effort either. Its closing track, the title track, is as much a climax as a record like this can have. Slower and more foreboding, its lower tones are comparatively booming. Following on from all the lush and natural timbres that came before, the grand finale is haunted by interference. High notes like static create unease, while familiar waves sound like light pushing back against something intrusive. For as much as ambience doesn’t deal in extremes, it only takes slight disturbances to change the mood.
As Clara closes, it could as well begin again. The light returns before the shadows inevitably invade, and the whole cycle repeats. Whether appreciated as background music or something more meditative, it’s a masterful display by an artist able to take one thing and contort it into many others, all with their own identities and atmospheres. This is a record that rewards mindful listening, its pulse acting as a guide between emotional expanses of glistening sound. Its depths are worth the effort.
Clara is available now