Monocoastal is the latest full length release from Portland, Oregon based multimedia artist Marcus Fischer, who also records under the moniker map~map and as half of ambient duo Unrecognizable Now. His debut on the influential 12K label, Monocoastal is inspired by Fischer's movements up and down the West Coast of America over two decades. The album is complemented by wonderfully blurry Polaroid artwork which is an apt visual representation of the music contained within, a mix of lo-fi tones, manipulated audio and uniquely captured sounds, all painstakingly weaved together into an exquisite audial experience.
The album begins with Wave Atlas, a structureless piece which haltingly explores lush ambient tones. There is such a wealth of sound within that it's near impossible to recognise just what is being performed, or even which instrument it is performed upon. The track is dominated by glitchy loops buried deep within the mix, small field recording excerpts and saturated tape loops, the inherent beauty highlighted by careful notes placed sparingly.
By second track Mossbank, the listener has lost all notion of time and structure, each piece feeling like a natural extension of the last, organic and warm. Fischer has shown remarkable restraint in these works, never pausing on a riff or melody for too long and Monocoastal remains very abstract but less challenging than this would usually imply, the album is immensely listenable and, even for someone not well versed in ambient music, a pleasure.
To pick a standout track is difficult and perhaps missing the point in an album best appreciated in one sitting, but one has to remark upon the delicate beauty of Between Narrow And Small. Monocoastal can be compared with another recent 12K work of exceptional quality, Taylor Deupree's Shoals in its unconventional recording methods, though while still feeling wholly Fischer's own style.
Released November 16 on CD and digital download, Monocoastal sees Marcus Fischer join fellow luminaries Library Tapes, Loscil, Brian McBride and Taylor Deupree in contention for one of the finest ambient releases of 2011.
Review by Adam Williams for Futuresequence