When we look at the world through art, be it literature, paintings or photography, we tend to be invited to look at it in polar absolutes. There is good and evil, there is darkness and there is light. Very few artists, in what ever their chosen field, can express the actuality of our world: that we live our lives in the middle of all this – a grey area, so to speak, a juxtaposition between darkness and light, happiness and sadness, good and bad. There’s very few of us who can say we’re definitely good (or, indeed, definitely evil). It’s rare that we can express ourselves without some kind of compromise. There’s also the tendency to view living in the 21st Century as somehow not real. That we live our lives out behind the facade of the internet whilst the world at large, which we’ve been made to think of as sinister and controlled by forces we cannot see, goes by. Simon Scott’s latest album on Miasmah seeks to explore this no-man’s land. There is no utter darkness, as there is no blinding light. Instead, on each track, Scott complicates the emotional impact with subtle application of sonic effects.
Right from the first track, ‘AC Waters’, we get a view of this mixing of light and dark. It begins with a slide of angelic vocals that get replaced by the flutter of an acoustic guitar as field recordings gurgle away underneath – chatter, leaves blowing. This organic sound is then replaced by bristling static, descending into silence. A double bass on loop thuds ‘Betty’ into life, a wash of other noises lapping at its bow. Piercing arrows of guitar glide in sending shock waves over the rest like ripples in a pond, the barrage of these increasing so that the waves start combining creating a rupture of sound.
‘Labano’ has you strolling through fields of static as a subtle jazz rhythm floats gently by, reverb drenched guitars lightly skipping over the top, but all heard through a muslin wrap – everything has lost its definition and is dulled round the edges. The reverb continues into ‘Radiances’, the piece drenched in its crying sound as a bass guitar slowly comes to life. This is as close as Scott has come to the sound of Slowdive in some time; there’s a shoegazing element to its slowness, the guitar taking control as haunted and mumbled vocals echo over the top. ‘Black Western Lights’ crackles and burns to the sound of a hundred lightbulbs slowly wearing themselves out, burning brightly in an environment of complete darkness.
The brevity of Bunny helps focus these ideas of a bruised and complicated life. These sketches of sound from Scott’s mind have been augmented and realised without over complication, as can be the case with music of this style. Its greatest success is never allowing the music to wallow in its difficulties but to always remain on the side of optimism. This is what keeps us going in our “grey” world – the chance to break out of its mundaneness, of exciting ourselves by not repeating the same mistakes and exploring other possibilities. There is a dry sense of humour at work here too, beginning with the album title, and ultimately, this exploration of life with a wry smile is what ensures Bunny is not just one of the finest records of the year, but of Scott’s career to date.