Loscil's Scott Morgan recorded Monument Builders during a difficult time that also spawned For Greta, an EP benefiting a friend's daughter battling a rare form of bone cancer. On this full-length, he gives that sense of sadness and frustration a global scope as he reflects humanity's toll on the environment. Monument Builders' grey and black vistas were also inspired by a moldering VHS copy of Koyaanisqatsi, the renowned nature documentary that expressed its themes as much through Philip Glass' iconic score as its striking visuals. Even without an accompanying film, the album feels like a lo-res sequel to Glass' music: Morgan makes it easy to envision the blighted landscapes evoked on pieces like "Anthropocene," a term referring to human-caused climate changes that rivals Koyaanisqatsi (a Hopi phrase meaning "life out of balance") when it comes to pointed titles. "Drained Lake"'s ragged, unpredictable beats suggest decaying foundations, while the arpeggiated synths on "Red Tide" feel like the unchecked growth of an invasive species. This is one of Monument Builders' clearest homages to Glass, but Morgan also riffs on his own body of work. He goes deeper into the dark, unsettled-sounding territory of Sea Island on "Monument Builders," girding its mournful trumpet and spectral electronics with sub-bass that adds to the sinking feeling he creates throughout the album. Indeed, no knowledge of Morgan's influences is necessary to understand the grief and anger radiating from Monument Builders -- this is the ambient music version of screaming at listeners to wake up. Since this is a Loscil album, there's as much lyrical beauty as bleakness within "Straw Dogs"' aching pauses or the gasping tones on "Weeds." Monument Builders is a powerful reminder that ambient music is a fine conduit for emotionally and politically charged messages, and it's one of Morgan's finest works yet. ~ Heather Phares
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