Simon Scott — Apart

Once the pandemic is over, we will hopefully have time to muse on the impact it has had on the music industry and the production of music itself. The times of COVID-19 have not only granted us with some decent pop-songs; the new modalities of life and time give the experimental music, preoccupied with philosophical and existential matters, the inexhaustible possibilities for the new conceptual discoveries. Yet for some artists these were also the times of grave loss, that they nevertheless managed to transform into beautiful, meditative, and complex musical pieces.

This is the case of Simon Scott of Slowdive – his father, Anthony John Scott, passed away in April, during the peak outbreak of the pandemic. Scott’s most recent album Apart is dedicated to his closest relative and a reflection on the fragile yet fettering web of temporalities that the pandemic, climate change and intimate sorrows have weaved around us.

The alphabetical structure of compositions (Apart A, B, C…) builds up a grammar of mourning that abruptly ends on the letter I (The following J is a bonus track, a darker version of I or its mimicry starting with chilling ambient, going through uncomfortable humming and rattling and resulting into noisy drones; one of the many hints that time is in distress.) This linear progression is but one of many temporal structures inhabiting the album. The compositions themselves are field recordings layered with piano pieces and synths and were recorded in a nature reserve in the Fens, the place Scott had last visited decades ago with his father. There he recorded the soundscape created by the voices of skylarks,  a species whose population is declining in the UK (Scott does not mention the reasons for this but they are easy to reconstruct). This elegiac ambience invoked memories of Scott’s father. What followed next was an attempt to archive the decaying nature system and the world itself: Scott reached into his backpack and pulled out his portable recorder. 

This impulsive gesture that seems quite different to the measured progress of the album questions the very transparency of its sound. Uneasiness always flickers behind the healing synths and drones reminding of the latest iterations of new age such as Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s albums. It gives out the confusion of someone who is trying to comprehend catastrophic events, both intimate and global. On the global scale, the whole scope of “pandemic music” may act like this impetuous movement that was the starting point for the album – the pandemic calls for the new archeology of ourselves.

However, despite being distinctly melancholic, sometimes Apart manages to sound light-hearted; in the end, this is the story of relief and letting go. One may think of it as a new, brighter version of Everywhere At The End Of Time, that creates a vision of a possible better future.