Friday, 12 February 2010

"Navigare" review by The Silent Ballet

This review is a little later as "Navigare" was released last autumn but The Silent Ballet have uncoved a few hidden truths about my album. I like what they have written and it shows that journalists like to dig around when absorbing an album!


"Although it is true that Simon Scott manned the drums for Slowdive in the 90s and thus helped to create one of the decade's essential albums, his musical endeavors since haven't been so successful. Sure, he's started a well-respected indie label, but many of his musical projects haven't gone the way of Slowdive's critical acclaim. His main post-Slowdive project was Televise, whose nostalgic sound received mixed reviews from critics and never warmed the hearts of the general-listening music public quite like Slowdive. But now Scott has released Navigare, his debut solo effort for the mightily impressive Miasmah label, and he's finally getting that second wind to his career that's been long overdue".

"What makes Navigare such a success is that Scott is able to let go of the 90s-dominant shoegaze sound that his career was built upon (and that subsequently followed him into Televise) and reboot his work in a much more modern scene. Thus, reviews that have focused on Scott's long resume with Slowdive are missing the point, as this project is more about a rebirth of Scott than a continuation of his glory days. This rekindling of interest was certainly signified by the opening of Kesh Recordings in 2008, which has plunged itself into the underground world of electronic music to deliver hits by Autistici, Hannu, and Saito Koji, and it also came shortly after Scott dragged himself out of a near decade of inactivity with Televise. This is the album of a man on a mission - to reclaim the influence he commanded nearly two decades ago".

"Anyone trying to connect Navigare with Slowdive's work will probably be astounded with Scott's musical transformation. Televise's material mostly sounded like a musician trying to find himself in a new field of music. Much of the Televise phase is filled with tracks that are more sketches of ideas that fully fledged works, and Navigare only highlights how much was missing from those sessions. Understandably, Scott has tapped into and is highly influenced by the modern ambient works from labels like Kranky, Touch, and Type, among others, so his newfound sound and label choice could not be more fitting. Now releasing music under his own name, Scott leaves little doubt that he has fully grasped modern song-smithing in ambient times, pulling from experimental electronic artists over the past two decades to create an album that is engaging, moving, and at times utterly beautiful".

"Some have noted that Navigare isn't dark or orchestral enough to be a Miasmah release, but this criticism is off base. First of all, someone claiming Miasmah is strictly a purveyor of dark music hasn't really listened to its back catalog. It's just not true. Sure, Elegi isn't the most peppy dude in the world, but I don't know what qualifies Rafael Anton Irisarri as being dark, unless the critic is a big fan of Lady Gaga and is especially frightened by instrumental music. So maybe Scott qualifies as different because he's a guitar dude. And that might make sense until one realizes that Dag Rosenqvist mostly plays guitar too. Secondly, Navigare is only Miashmah's eleventh release, which isn't a terribly large data set to be pigeonholing it into a very specific type of label. But, most importantly, such a comment completely 'misses' what the label is trying to accomplish, which isn't a unification of sound (the dark and orchestral) but rather one of aethestic".

"Navigare (Latin for "to set sail") seems to aim at being a conceptual album, though it's unclear exactly what that concept may be. While Tommy Jansen is rather explicit with his concepts for Miasmah, Scott is less so. He talks in great detail about the inspiration for and creation of the tracks on Textura's backtracking feature, which unearths many common motifs amongst them. Additionally, we see use of field recordings and a general nod towards experimentalism and minimalism, two things that may as well be Miasmah staples. A key bit of information found in Textura's article is that Scott's uncle was an officer in the Navy that died of alcohol abuse. There is a logical connection to be made between being submerged underwater on a vessel and submerging one's problems with constant intoxication. Is Navigare an album about an individual who spent most of his life submerged, in one fashion or another? It sure sounds like it - whether a conscious decision by Scott or something that was unconsciously lurking below the surface, the mood and music of the album definitely indicates a fascination with submergence and creates a concept that pays tribute to his passed relative".

"Scott's main trick is that of subtlety. He's a master with layers and his real interest in music is in the electronic world. Thus, his tracks contain a wealth of interesting interplay that bubbles just below the surface. On and above the surfaces he spreads thick ambient layers of drone, drums, field recordings, and other noises. Although befitting for a Miasmah release, it's probably more in line with Touch's aesthetic than anything else, even if it does come across as fairly accessible. Several tracks absolutely dazzle. "Spring Stars" is by far the album's most beautiful piece and stuns the audience with magnificent tones and uplifting ambience. Elsewhere, "Under Crumbling Skies" delivers another subtle drone piece while "Flood Inn" present an industrial edge that provides a nice variety from the more minimal tracks. For the most part, Scott's music avoids standard pitfalls of growing stagnant or not being dynamically exciting. He's certainly researched his experimental electronica and culled the best parts for a commendable effort".

"Although Scott's bread and butter is the presentation of straight ambient on top of submerged electronics, a side treat is that all the tracks are rather short. Tom Butcher recently praised Black to Comm's latest effort due to the restraint placed upon track lengths, and I have a similar feeling while listening to Navigare. Scott doesn't specialize in extended drone pieces or ambient pieces that slowly wear down the audience. Rather, it's more akin to "ambient music for the iPod generation" - short experimental snippets that are impressively self-contained and yet still flow with a remarkable ease. Several tracks can be extracted and enjoyed independently of the rest of the album, which is not something that can be said of most ambient albums. In fact, I commented on this very phenomenon only last month while blurbing about Panoptic Electrical's "Some Rooms Become Us" and now I've got to add Simon Scott to that list of artists as well".

"While Scott succeeds when he fully adapts his uncle's crisis into musical theory, he begins to stumble when the subtlety is lost and he wanders back into shoegaze territory. The album glides along smoothly at first, and even the drumming of "Flood Inn" doesn't disturb the album's pristine cohesion. "Derelict Days" dives down deeper into minimal territory until reaching "Repulse," which is just three minutes of bleak, rather uninteresting sonic bulges of sound. While conceptually invigorating (perhaps symbolizing the zenith of despair and destruction), it's musically uninteresting. The layers of magic built in tracks like "Flood Inn" and subtlety of tracks like "Under Crumbling Skies" is absent, and the album's cocksure confidence begins to waver. "The Old Jug and Drum" and "Ashma" pick up where "Derelict Days" left off, leading into the excellent "Spring Stars" and "The Night and the Artifice," which starts innocently and ends with a noisy, spectacular conclusion".

"In total, the album works. The concept functions convincingly across the board and most of the tracks employ the theme with great success. On occasion tracks step outside of the musical zone Scott has created and slide back into his shoegaze days. Some may not mind the shift in style, but the same thinking can be achieved while sticking to tone of the album. Navigare briefly changes course midway through the journey, only to right itself and follow its original itinerary, which ultimately questions why such a deviation was implemented at all. It's a small quibble to most, but it's enough to disrupt the flow of the album and prevents it from landing amongst the top tier of artists from 2009. Nonetheless, Navigare comes highly recommended".

"It's safe to say that Simon Scott has finally kicked the bug that's been following him around since his Slowdive days and can finally step out into the world as a new musician. Navigare is a strong debut, and Nivalis is a welcome experimental release. Scott's on his way to an exciting second career as a solo musician, and something tells me that his best work is ahead of him yet".

-Jordan Volz

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