Simon Scott’s “Insomni” now on sale

Ash 11.4, by Simon Scott, is now on sale in the TouchShop as CD with exclusive bonus downloads, and also as a 24-bit digital file.

The download is available now, with the CD shipping on 4th September. When you buy the CD version from TouchShop, you receive two bonus tracks not available elsewhere:

1. ‘Into Birch’ (Pipe organ and electric guitar)
2. ‘Mere’ (Acoustic 6 string)
(both 24 bit, mastered by Denis Blackham)

Pre-order Simon Scott “Insomnia” [CD + download] in the TouchShop

…also available as 24-bit WAV Download files

Dalston Sound (UK):
Simon Scott’s music is a study in soundscapes inspired by both music technology and the natural world. His last album, Below Sea Level, was originally released as a CD plus book edition on the 12k label, the book being an 80-page journal of Scott’s engagement with the landscape of the British East Anglian Fens. In it he explored the aesthetics of active listening and sound ecology. The stand of reeds on the cover of Insomni suggests a continuity of ideation, but the presentation here is more minimal, the music mostly left to speak for itself.

Insomni is Swedish for Insomnia, and the slate grey of the album’s cover photography suggests a crepuscular, moonlit wakefulness. But open the cover fold, and the inside is a glossy lemon yellow – a simple design that nicely captures the album’s dreamlike vividity.
The album plays as a single piece, but there are 11 titled indexes on the CD. “An Angel From The Sea Kissed Me”, its first cut, has processed electric guitar bursting from a subterranean melodic core with fuzzy luminosity, then swells and smoulders with metamorphic iridescence. It’s instantly, unavoidably evocative of Fennesz’s Endless Summer, but magnificently so. This heat-haze intro burns off, revealing field recordings that acts as a bridge and continuing background to intimate, distracted guitar strumming on “Holme Posts”.

“Confusion In Her Eyes” is a new beginning, unfurling slowly, a thread of ghostly hymnal melody gradually enfolded by roiling sedimental drones, which in turn abate, leaving stillness pierced by stridulations. “Relapse” then briefly reprises the Fennesz vibe.
“Oaks Grow Strong” begins with closely-blended processed sound and acoustic guitar, but initial intimacy gradually leeches away into coldness and abstraction. There’s a constant tension at play between light and shadow. “Ternal” is brief, obscure and glitchy, the following “Nettle Bed” founded on clean, cyclical acoustic guitar picking, warmed by strings.

A similar chiaroscuro effect is then achieved with the segue from “Fen Drove”, a country cousin to William Basinski’s Disintegration Loops, to the balmy mesh of strings and guitar holding “Nember” together, the guitar close-miked to capture the snap and smear of finger/string contacts.

The emphasis gradually shifts to acoustic guitar, with Scott’s fast, dynamic flatpicking on the bright, uptempo “Far From The Tree”. Although the piece ends with a cross-fade into processed guitar and the hum of static or maybe rainfall, “Swanbark” returns briefly to buoyant, cyclical guitar picking.

The album describes an arc from somnolence and half-light to a new dawn. The influences on Scott’s music seem pretty obvious, but that’s never a problem, because Scott has internalised those influences and synthesised from them something more than its constituents, with a distinctive imprint. The discrimination of his ear and the vivid concision of the ideas he’s transposed into music sets his work apart.

Scott may be best known as the drummer in Slowdive, a MBV-inspired group that originally recorded in the early 90s and only recently reformed. But he’s also a freelance composer and sound recordist for film and television. In 2008 he established the KESH recording label, and he has collaborated with the likes of Taylor Deupree, Nils Frahm and Machinefabriek. The various facets of this multidisciplinary work doubtless all enriched Insomni, and it’s probably for the best, for us listeners at least, that Slowdrive never really gained traction.

Caught by the River (UK):
One of the absolute beauties of 2015 is James Blackshaw’s Summoning Sons LP. There was a time back in the spring/early summer when I couldn’t get through a day without a quick shot of its easy, jazzy vibe, its slightly shambling insouciance, all propelled along with some feathery drums and a not inconsiderable dose of wistfulness. Rummaging around online, checking half-remembered facts about Simon Scott, his Slowdive days, and his more recent albums constructed from ‘found sounds’, I just had a fine serendipitous moment: the drummer for Summoning Sons is none other than the former Slowdive sticks-man himself. I caught the reformed Slowdive at the Forum in Kentish Town last Christmas: it was a fine assault on the senses, real tube-clearing stuff, and the crowd (full of the expected fortysomethings, but also plenty of youngsters) loved it. But . . . well, it’s not 1994 any more, and these days I spend a lot of time listening to records that are almost barely there: the muffled voices and birdsong of ‘Berwick Street at Dawn’ and the plaintive call of the Coryton Refinery Siren on Canvey Island from Ian Rawes’s superb London Sound Survey LP; Thomas Köner’s recordings of ghostly voices late at night in Barcelona, or the ice sheet cracking deep down in the Arctic; the pastoral melancholy of sepia-toned releases on the excellent Wist Rec label from Ireland – a lengthy soundtrack to Richard Mabey’s The Unofficial Countryside, or the elegiac ode to rising sea levels, The Changing Tide, by the Laborer; Philip Jeck’s vinyl requiems; sounds from the Caretaker’s dusty ballroom. Don’t get me wrong, there’ll always be a time and a place to stick on ‘Loose’ from Fun House – or even ‘Souvlaki Space Station’, or ‘Confetti’ from Summoning Sons – but I also wonder if rock and roll one day won’t seem just a bit, you know, forced, and as contrived and somewhat ludicrous as music hall.

I’m sure Simon Scott has travelled even further down this overgrown path. For those late to the party (like me) his last record, Below Sea Level, is a submerged wonder, put together from recordings made in the Fens between 2010 and 2012. His new album, Insomni – inspired by ‘a nocturnal foraging for sound’, the hum of the fridge and the fish tank – does have a track-listing of sorts, but is meant to be experienced as one 42-minute piece. Stick your head into the speaker as it gets going and it’s possible to pick up what sounds like the stuck glitching, the distressed CD clicks of an old Oval or Microstoria record; within three or four minutes the needle is in the red but the distortion (as with Slowdive) is never less than bliss(tering); by 7 minutes in, birds are chirping as a guitar is gently strummed, the delay delicately folded in with the wash of a stream and sounds possibly sourced from a river bank in the Fens. Midway through, ‘Ternal’ seems to herald a darker third movement – there’s what sounds like the hum of a light aircraft engine; sparks from a blow torch – but then a lovely guitar figure bursts through the foliage: the sun is up, morning is almost here, time for peaceful sleep at last. Where there’s a lot going on on what would be side one (if this were on vinyl) – the head-turning and sheet-twisting; some of the guitar pieces have the feel of the openings to Slowdive tracks, chopped up and scrambled through a bad night’s sleep – the second half of the record feels calmer, and cleaner in some ways: the samples, recordings, scuzz and fuzziness drop away slightly, as guitar lines bloom into focus. Late on there’s a lovely piece of fretwork (‘Far from the Tree’) that wouldn’t sound out of place on something like Glenn Jones’s My Garden State. But there’s still plenty of hum and crackle: ‘Nember’ is a beautifully repeated loop that glows against a murky backdrop like a dimmed light from William Basinski’s Disintegration Loops; elsewhere, chiming guitar notes overlay the pulse of what could be a skipping CD, or perhaps the beating of dragonflies’ wings. A lot of ambient dronescapes can feel a bit heavy-handed these days – monolithic slabs of drone; heavy portents of impending doom or endless melancholy – but Insomni is a fine album; assembled with a lightness of touch, it’s a lovely undulating record, a late-summer treat. [Ian Preece]

Fluid Radio (UK):
“Insomni” sees Cambridgeshire man Simon Scott embrace a broader range of moods and timbres than on his previous album “Below Sea Level”, at times harking back to the heavier sounds of his early solo work for Miasmah. Although he cut his teeth as a drummer, the music released under his own name is mostly guitar- and synth-based, with the field recordings used to such great effect on “Below Sea Level” also making themselves heard on the new record. The title refers in part to the sources of many of these recordings, no longer limited to the natural world: unable to sleep, Scott’s ears tuned in to “the hum of the fridge… the fish tank, dvd player, a broken laptop…”

While “Below Sea Level” was a tribute to the wide open spaces and hidden aquatic and avian lives of Scott’s native Fens, “Insomni” traces a route through more mountainous terrain. While the late summer haze of the previous album is sometimes felt, this time round the music spans a season of torrential downpours and biting wind as well as moments of warmth and light. From the dense and rough to the light and buoyant, the wide range of timbres and intensities create a more dramatic scenery, with strong contrasts between epic grandeur and quiet intimacy. Tone and harmony are still important, but the music becomes increasingly melody-driven as the album progresses, with pace and rhythm, fleet-footed yet urgent, replacing the steady surge of the drone.
Indeed, “Insomni” is a record of two halves: the first drone-heavy, with harmony and texture the key developing principles; the second more melodic and foregrounding Scott’s skills as a guitarist. In this sense, the music cuts deep into time and sound to encompass a sedimentation of moments and influences that have led Scott to this point. Like a journey with many different waystations along the route, the album offers a range of different vistas and pleasures. Though no clear final destination is arrived at, a red line nonetheless draws itself through each of the album’s points, linking them together: a gaze from a train window as the worlds of the world roll by.

Boomkat (UK):
Slowdive’s Simon Scott swallows us whole with the majestic ‘Insomni’, his debut for Ash International. As the album title implies, this album deals with sleep, or a lack of it, and most particularly the liminal spaces between light/dark, waking/dreams, and natural/noumenal realms. In Scott’s own words “Couldn’t sleep…; arose to forage for sound. The hum of the fridge encouraged further investigation of hidden, domestic sounds; the fish tank, dvd player, a broken laptop…; Dawn and morning light allowed more sound and the guitar, in its case, beckoned…; From darkness to light…” And thus unfolds a 40 minute inward/outward journey, diffusing guitars, Buddha Machine and location recordings thru Max MSP, Supercollider and LogicPro to render a nebulous, dynamic sound field seamelessly strung between sheeting shoegaze and blistering ambience contrasting sharply with relatively shocking pockets and planes of naked acoustic guitar. Still, few can do this sound quite like the Slowdive man.

music won’t save you (Italy):
Come da titolo, “Insomni” muove da un’osservazione da parte di Simon Scott di un ambiente sonoro vissuto nelle ore notturne, catturato nelle sue frequenze immanenti e completato da significative parti suonate. Il tutto è presentato come un itinerario d’ascolto di oltre quaranta minuti in traccia unica, benché ripartita in una sequenza di frammenti più o meno lunghi.

Come nello splendido “Below Sea Level”, sono nuovamente i field recordings il punto di partenza intorno al quale l’artista inglese costruisce le proprie composizioni; tuttavia in “Insomni” si tratta appunto soltanto di un primo spunto, che ben presto si ritrae a semplice corollario di un’articolata galleria di armonie elettro-acustiche.

Fin dall’inizio, infatti, la sospesa atmosfera notturna è definita attraverso suoni ricavati da modulazioni d’organo e chitarra, che fungono da fondale dapprima a un’ambience austera e a tratti persino contorta e quindi a sorprendenti pennellate di paesaggismo acustico. “Insomni” è infatti idealmente divisibile in due parti pressoché speculari: la prima metà del lavoro presenta un contenuto più strettamente ambientale, incentrata su drone e correnti di elettricità statica e a tratti molto prossima al rumore mentre, proprio intorno al giro di boa della lunga traccia, delicati arpeggi introducono una seconda parte che, pur presentando ancora risonanze granulose, è invece dominata da armonie acustiche che suggeriscono incantate contemplazioni bucoliche.

L’approdo finale dell’insonnia creativa di Scott assomiglia dunque alla ritrovata serenità di un’inedita atmosfera aurorale, da cogliere nella sua preziosa fugacità, al termine di un lucidissimo viaggio dalle tenebre alla luce, attraverso sensazioni, suoni e dettagli esaltati nella percezione proprio dal contesto notturno.

Black Audio (UK):
Cambridge based Simon Scott returns with his beautifully packaged fourth album of atmospheric digital and organic sounds; that concentrate on the environment in which he resides. Opening with ‘An Angel from the Sea Kissed me’, there is an immediacy that grabs the listener, as a swell of distorted guitars weave their way through a wash of pads. My only gripe is that they overtake the proceedings, drowning out the subtleties at some key points; but nevertheless, push all my buttons in a Fennesz type fashion. Scott blends a multitude of field recordings into his work; but where others fail, he is successful in not relying on these as his sole source of production, leaving his pure skill of musicianship to speak for itself. Along the way we are treated to dramatic seas of Dark Ambient, resonating drone work and blissful passages of pads and soul-searching guitar. The generous mix as the album progresses, touches on many an emotion; many of which reflective.

Unsurprising to learn that Scott is a freelance composer and has done much work for sound and television; also that he was part of Slowdive who worked with Brian Eno on his 1993 ‘Souvlaki’ album. Either way, Simon deserves his own stage and I highly recommend you check him out. 9/10

Le Son du Grisli (France):
Pas aussi inconnu de moi jusque-là que ce que je pensais, Simon Scott a été le batteur de Slowdive au début des années 90. Il y a moins de temps que ça, il a sorti des disques sous son nom à lui (sur 12k ou Touch par exemple). D’ailleurs : finie la batterie, place à la guitare (folk, claire).

Une sorte de Slowdive instrumental introduit d’ailleurs Insomni, et cette etheral ambient pop avec ses guitares saturant saupoudrées (très légèrement) de voix et de violoncelle est très engageante (écouter ci-dessous). C’est comme un folk joué sous la pluie qui tombe sur des pylônes électriques, ça impressionne forcément. Mais une guitare folk apparaît et la pluie cesse. A à peine un tiers de l’album, Scott perd sa recette et ses accords sous arpèges virent pop folk instrumental dont le fastoche ennuierait plus d’un débutant à l’instrument. Voilà bien de quoi combattre l’insomnie !

Aquarius Records (USA):
With his first release under the auspices of the Touch label (via their Ash International subsidiary), after others on Miasmah and Immune, Simon Scott offers up yet another exquisite album, once again treading far beyond the shadow of Slowdive. Yes, Scott is the drummer from that beloved shoegazing / noise-pop ensemble; but there’s nary a rhythm to be found on Insomni, which graces us with radioluminscent guitar drones, data-crunched sheets of noise, abstracted field recordings, and a number of languid ellipsis on the acoustic guitar. All of this comes together for a damn near perfect album that is right at home alongside so many of the other greats on Touch and Ash International (like Fennesz, BJ Nilsen, Lawrence English, Phill Niblock, Oren Ambarchi, Chris Watson, etc.). The album operates somewhat like a diptych with the first half of the album re-coding dilated shoegazing drones into effervescent explosions of digitalia girded with sublimely somber harmonics and loping melodies. Many of the environmental sounds address the album’s title of insomnia, with Scott capturing those household drones and electrical hums that can dig into the brain as an unwelcome sonic earworm, late at night when one is trying to sleep but cannot. Scott amplifies and expands these sounds and coaxes something transcendent out of them amidst his soft-focused explosions of guitars and whatnot. The second half of the album is dominated by his beautiful acoustic guitar explorations that certainly pay homage to someone like Robbie Basho or Peter Walker, with these crystalline figures chiming into elegant fugues and languid passages equally melodic as they are hypnotic. Undoubtedly, Insomni is the best solo recording we’ve heard from Simon Scott yet!

Musik an sich (Germany):
Der 1969 geborene Brite Simon Scott ist eigentlich Schlagzeuger und war neben seinen Soloprojekten bereits in vielen Bands aktiv. Die bekanntesten davon dürften woh die Shoegazer Slowdive sein, welche sich just 2014 nach fast 20 Jahren reformiert haben.
Auf seinem neuen Soloalbum Insomni (sein neuntes), übt er sich in avantgardistischer, dem Postrock naher aber auch seine Shoegazewurzeln nicht verleugnenden, atmosphärischen Instrumentalmusik. Hier setzt er 6- und 12-saitige Gitarren, Elektronik, Radio und spezielle Mikrophone und Mischgeräte ein um, seine soundtrackartige Musik zu kreieren.

Das Eingangsstück “An angel from the sea kissed me“ weist dann noch sehr deutlich auf seine Wurzeln, arbeitet es doch mit Wall-of-Sounds, erzeugt durch verfremdete Gitarren- und elektronische Klänge. Diese Elemente tauchen immer wieder in den sich langsam aufbauenden Stücken auf. Sanfte elektronische Keyboardsounds, Geräusche und elektronische Sounds kreieren häufig zunächst melancholische Landschaften, die dann plötzlich in diese Feedback-, ja Post-Dronesounds münden.

Die Vermengung der verschiedenen Stile gelingt Simon Scott sehr gut. Und dies – das ist seine tatsächliche Leistung – ohne zur unhörbaren Avantgarde zu verkommen, denn alle Tracks werden von Melodien getragen, die sich mal mehr, mal weniger deutlich ausprägen. Die Vermengung der Fieldrecordings mit den Sounds und Klängen ist ebenso otimal abgestimmt und alle elf Stücke ergeben eine wunderbare, gut hörbare Einheit, was durch die Tatsache, dass auf der CD nicht die Einzellängen, sondern jeweils der Startzeitpunkt auf der CD vermerkt sind, unterstützt wird. Und wenn dann noch so eine wunderbare Ballade mit zwei akustischen Gitarren wie “Nettle bed“ das ganze auflockert, geht dem Hörer das Herz auf.

Insomni ist ein starkes, avantgardistisches, irgendwie fast neoklassisches und doch auch poppiges Album geworden. Ein Soundtrack für Kopfkino der besonderen Art. [Wolfgang Kabsch]

SWQW (France):
Simon Scott n’est pas un inconnu, loin de là. Mais même s’il est avant tout le batteur des vétérans du shoegaze Slowdive, c’est également un explorateur fervent des territoires électroacoustiques à composantes environnementales, créant à base de guitares électriques (ou pas) et de traitement digitaux des albums à découvrir au moins une fois, ne serait-ce que parce qu’il les a sorti sur des labels aussi positivables que Miasmah ou 12k (toi-même tu sais). Sans compter des collaborations avec d’autres magiciens électroniques comme Taylor Deupree, Illuha ou Rafael Anton Irisarri sous son pseudo The Sight Below ; beau pedigree quoi. Sa dernière création paraît sur Ash International, label cousin d’un certain Touch qui n’est pas moins positivable.

Abandonnez-vous maintenant à l’allégresse et laissez vos sens s’émoustiller à la lecture d’une nouvelle chronique ambient et drone que vous attendiez tant.

Conséquence d’une nuit blanche qui a ponctuellement changé Scott en noctambule à la recherche de sons ambiants, Insomni reflète cette versatilité inévitable qui nous gagne lorsque le sommeil ne veut pas de nous. Une évolution erratique de nos états physique et émotionnel, progressivement altérés par cette veille forcée sous la lumière sélénique. Car ne pas pouvoir dormir ne signifie évidemment pas être alerte, détournant alors l’environnement et les stimuli en un trip surréaliste qui brouille la frontière séparant le véridique de l’onirique. Un rêve éveillé qui utilise les sons perçus comme carburant et notre mémoire comme véhicule en roue libre dans une expérience en plus de quatre dimensions. Et c’est avec du coton dans les oreilles et de la brume dans les yeux qu’on suivra cette aventure nocturne vers l’aube possiblement salvatrice, mais sans idée précise de l’itinéraire que l’on va emprunter pour y arriver.

Réservant les pistes sans trame concrète d’une nuit sans fin à sa première moitié et les mélodies acoustiques fleurant bon l’amour et l’eau fraîche sous le soleil à la seconde, Insomni respecte la progression du récit dans le temps malgré son écoulement incertain. Après s’être fait démolir notre volonté de rejoindre les bras de Morphée par le souffle brûlant des guitares übersaturées sur An Angel From the Sea Kissed Me, on part de force en pilote automatique entre bruits environnants et recoins hippocampiques obscurs, ces deux sources d’inspiration sonores confluant en un flot tortueux au débit variable. Tantôt au bord de l’assoupissement, bercés en eaux calmes réminiscentes de Below Sea Level et à l’horizon hors de portée (Oaks Grow Strong, Fen Drove), tantôt malmenés et ramenés in extremis à l’éveil lors des phases de rapides plus abruptes (Confusion in Her Eyes, Relapse), corps et esprit vagabondent dans des paysages inconstants dessinés au fusain, cherchant vainement le point de fuite vers le sommeil dans des perspectives mouvantes. Et plus le jour se rapproche, plus les souvenirs liés à la guitare se font clairs eux aussi et prennent l’ascendant sur les éléments aux contours plus dilués, en témoigne le triptyque de clôture. Mais malgré de jolies fulgurances mélodiques, notamment sur Swanbark, on ne peut s’empêcher de trouver la partie purement acoustique hors de propos, et honnêtement assez chiante par rapport aux précédentes pistes. Car notre voyage au bout de la nuit prendra par définition fin à l’aurore, tandis que les derniers morceaux semblent le poursuivre au-delà, troquant l’ébriété asthénique pour la récupération héliophile.
Tout comme on passe du qui-vive au coup de barre sans crier gare, l’album se révélera parfois inégal dans ce qu’il offrira. Là où l’imprévisibilité des field recordings semi-opaques et autres drones granuleux illustre parfaitement le caractère incontrôlable de l’évènement qui inspira Insomni, la clarté des guitares acoustiques déborde du cadre de l’expérience (une symptomatique que l’on retrouve aussi entre les deux pistes bonus, qui n’apportent ou n’enlèvent d’ailleurs rien à l’album). Mais malgré ce bémol, la première demi-heure de la galette est déjà assez digne d’intérêt, prenant régulièrement l’auditeur à contre-pied dans une écoute à la dynamique affranchie de repos elle aussi. [dotflac]

Carnage (Italy):
Dai più piccoli dettagli può nascere qualcosa di maestoso, non tanto per la sua qualità estetica, ma per la grandezza del prodotto finale. Nella sfida tra il piccolo e il grande, io sto sempre dalla parte del più piccolo e continuerò a tifare l’interdetto. In questo senso, anche il più piccolo rumore si fa scintilla per forgiare nuove opere. Si pensi, ad esempio cosa sono riusciti a tirare fuori gli artisti da ronzii di frigo, rumori meccanici o disturbi, intermittenze, ecc. Ma, tutti queste piccole cose ne compongono una. In questo caso il disco si intitola insomni, ma l’unica traccia che compone il disco porta questo/i titolo/i : An Angel From The Sea Kissed Me / Holme Posts / Confusion In Her Eyes / Relapse / Oaks Grow Strong / Ternal / Nettle Bed / Fen Drove / Nember / Far From The Tree / Swanbark.

Stiamo parlando di più o meno 45 minuti continui di flusso sonoro, movimenti che si concatenano e che fanno sbocciare quelli seguenti, quasi come una narrazione, più come epifanie viste, sentite e tracciate da Simon Scott che non è conosciuto propriamente per essere un musicista a tutto tondo, bensì per il ruolo che ricoperto come batterista degli Slowdive nei loro tour in UK. Scott si sbarazza di tale fama e si tramuta in compositore che capta suoni dall’ambiente circostante, sia dalla natura che da luoghi ecumenici, introduce calde pennate di chitarra – che rievoca il suono degli ultimi Slowdive – loop ciclici di feedback che divengono corali, tellurici e granulosi fino ad una prossima deflagrazione che, sempre con delicatezza, sottolineano la propria ineluttabilità, arpeggi incalzanti, un ambient transitorio.

Ecco, quello che vi sto dicendo è come se vi facessi vedere delle istantanee di un viaggio. Che poi, non so voi, ma se c’è una cosa che mi annoia profondamente è vedere le foto di viaggio degli altri, visto che non l’ho vissuto e ne capisco sempre un decimo di quello che qualcun’altro ha esperito. Se vi dicessi piuttosto che questo flusso è un viaggio necessario passare dalle tenebre alla luce? Come un rito di passaggio, come autotestimonia Simon Scott in questa sua dichiarazione presente nel comunicato del suo disco, che si mostra quasi come un frammento poetico:

Couldn’t sleep… arose to forage for sound. The hum of the fridge encouraged further investigation of hidden, domestic sounds; the fish tank, dvd player, a broken laptop…Dawn and morning light allowed more sound and the guitar, in its case, beckoned…
From darkness to light…

Dal frammento si risale al tutto (a volte) e quando ciò non avviene, osserviamo il frammento come un tutto; e quando avviene non riusciamo più a concepire il tutto come tale e la completezza ci avvolge erroneamente (e ci sentiamo sicuri, svegli, illuminati).