The solo work that Simon Scott has released to date has been quite the opposite when compared with his higher-profile credit as the drummer for Slowdive. Insomni is, like its predecessor in Below Sea Level, an ever-expanding field of tones, guitars, found recordings, and the occasional burst of unidentifiable electronic noise. The music is not necessarily arrhythmic, but it is clear that Scott’s sense of composition is more in tune with tone and texture. Insomni has all of this in its eleven pieces, mixed into a single composition, and Scott’s use of light and dark, ugly and beautiful, is captivating and stunning from beginning to end.
Scott’s last album, the aforementioned Below Sea Level, was more of a conceptual piece with him mixing compositions with recordings captured at the Fens in East Anglia, England—a location he had childhood memories of. The suite of songs that make up Insomni are less tied together by such a specific thematic thread, yet they still have a less obvious consistency between them. The first half is broken up into an alternating pattern of a more fleshed out song that is segued into the next by a shorter, more abstract piece, while the album’s conclusion follows a more conventional template.
“An Angel from the Sea Kissed Me” and “Confusion in Her Eyes” both vary between melodic drones and overt guitar tones (especially in the former), but both also become more dissonant as they grow. “An Angel…” makes a slower transition, from melody into fuzzy, lush distortion that eventually becomes full-on noise for a brief period. On “Confusion in Her Eyes,” Scott retains the more pleasant elements as he pulls the piece into a deeper, bass-heavy place that is exacerbated by grinding, scraping metallic noises to produce a brilliant contrast.
“Oaks Grow Strong” too has a diverse and evolving structure, though with a more loop-focused and electronic tinge to it that eventually becomes much more bleak and messy, with the piece slowly dissolving into chaos in its closing moments. “Relapse” is another with a combination approach: heavy on the feedback and fuzz, but it overall retains an inviting warmth throughout its short duration. My best guess for “Ternal” is that it is the result of a cell phone or other wireless device too close to a guitar pickup, but even with an identifiable source, Scott processes and treats it to something much more nuanced.
The latter half of Insomni differs in that Scott relies more heavily on a pure guitar sound throughout, using the processed and synthetic sounds as less of a primary focus. Acoustic guitar with only the most tasteful of processing is the primary element of “Nember,” with the less obvious, more dissonant sounds leaking in towards its conclusion to excellent effect. The concluding “Swanbark” expands the guitar sound from simple acoustic strums to thicker, more varied layers of sound, concluding with a more electronic, ambient mood at the end.
While it might not be quite as thematically tied as Below Sea Level, Insomni is no less of a powerful and brilliant record. Simon Scott’s diverse array of instrumentation and compositional structures give each piece a distinct feel and mood, but there is a consistency within them that brings the album together as a living, breathing organism that draws from both traditional and digital worlds. That seamless joining of components is what results in such a complex and diverse piece that has its fair share of dissonance and ugliness, but Scott never loses the sense of beauty that pervades each song here.
01) An Angel from the Sea Kissed Me
02) Holme Posts
03) Confusion in Her Eyes
05) Oaks Grow Strong
07) Nettle Bed
08) Fen Drove
10) Far from the Tree