Loess – Pocosin (n5MD, 2017)


I can just about see the dockyards from my window, overcast light touching the myriad steel structures, steam rising out of the domed incinerator and climbing lazily into the low clouds. They’re more evocative at night, transforming into shadowy behemoths that punctuate the sky with their light-topped caps, metal facets gleaming under floodlights. It sometimes seems overtly industrial, harshly artificial under unflattering conditions but there’s a strange allure to its nighttime appearance, its machinations reduced to secretive lights in the distance. This is Loess’s Pocosin: a sense of desynchronisation with urbanity yet a strange tug of attraction towards it.

This is a collection of exploratory pieces, an attempt to make sense of this human-directed landscape that at once feels oddly homely yet distrustfully unnatural. “Petrel” opens almost abruptly, thrusting us back into the fray as though 8 years haven’t elapsed since their last record, its woozy vibes exuding a certain confidence as it passes blurry shop windows and neon lights, flirting with off-kilter synth patterns that inject a gentle disquiet. It’s probably the most outgoing track of the record with the exception of “Wrikken”, which plumbs the deepest and darkest depths of any piece here, its basslines thick and its environment cavernous, eerie. Jangling percussive skitterings and decisive drum machines keep it powering on, but there’s only so much energy available to sustain the facade of acceptance and inclusion in this unfamiliar realm.

More tentative and hesitant probing of this concrete and glass and asphalt land is found in tracks like “Kype”, advancing in creeping pulses of synth beneath the percussion drivers, its developmental flow at once both janky and staccato, yet smooth and organic. It doesn’t feel warring, but it senses the strangeness of this juxtaposition, the mind unsure whether to embrace its surroundings or reject them. Follow-up “Striae” seems almost willing to accept them, this album centerpiece shuffling in slow and sensual grooves that exude a sombre, almost melancholic air; is this not the inevitable future for us? The green spaces slowly eroded away until only brick and steel remains; why not accept defeat now, it seems to suggest softly. There’s no escape from industry.

We seek solitude and reflection, these notions too worrisome and disconcerting to be taken all at once. “Alosa” uses its substantial runtime to send soft drone sheets over us, cyclic airs that tick over thoughtfully in breathy waves as syncopated beats tumble out erratically like unbidden thoughts. It feels oddly superficial, fragmentary, hollow even, like we’re only seeing the twitching of the eyes during REM phase rather than the dreams themselves. More physical is the penultimate mourning of “Bowhead”, its slow drone croonings the distant lapping of waves, the sounds of fabric and dirt scritching and crinkling in our ears from our clifftop vantage, a fleeting feeling of absolution and escape only possible with our transient interactions with the natural world and the almost baptismal, cleansing endlessness of the sea.

We need the cities, not for personal health or state of mind, we need them because we create a need for them. We need to be here for jobs, for industry, for entertainment; these are the things that tantalise us, draw us in and soften the banality and unnatural way of life they create. Pocosin is almost a warning: don’t get too drawn in by the siren’s call of those distant lights, we don’t belong here really, remember to find respite and solitude in the green places while they still remain.