Tone 53 – Simon Scott “Floodlines”

CD + full wav Download [If you buy from the TouchShop] – 1 track
Release date: 17th June 2016

Artwork & photography by Jon Wozencroft
Mastered by Denis Blackham @ Skye

Track listing:

1. Floodlines

Recorded live at Cafe Oto as part of “Touch presents…” on 31st January 2016

Simon Scott is a sound ecologist and multi-instrumentalist from Cambridge, England. His albums ‘Insomni’ (Ash International) and ‘Below Sea Level’ (12k/TouchLine) are out now (see above). His work explores the creative process of actively listening, the implications of recording the natural world using technology and the manipulation of natural sounds used for musical composition. He plays the drums in Slowdive and has recently collaborated with artists James Blackshaw, Spire, Taylor Deupree (Between), Isan + many more.

This is his first physical release for Touch.

Source material recorded in The Fens, East Anglia.

Simon Scott’s blistering live set from London follows his 2015 album ‘insomni’ but features his field recordings of areas of The Fens in East Anglia that cartographically are below mean sea level. They’re complimented by underwater hydrophone recordings taken on field research trips, making the unheard audible and brings the unseen to the surface. It’s a flat landscape that was devastated by the draining of The Fens in the 17th century. The ecosystem was damaged but these areas have been left to reflood and re-establish it’s vernacular wildlife, replete with its own instrumentation and orchestras. Tapping into these, Scott’s vision encourages us to explore the fertility of the flatlands of England.


Boomkat (UK):

With the fantastically immersive 30 minute live recording of Floodlines, Touch render Slowdive member and multi-instrumentalist Simon Scott at his most kinetic and captivating.

Floodlines follows the arc of his Below Sea Level (2012) album back to The Fens, East Anglia, armed with microphones and hydrophones in pursuit of a personal sonic ecology/ontology exploring “the creative process of actively listening, the implications of recording the natural world using technology and the manipulation of natural sounds used for musical composition.”

Performed and captured at Café Oto, London, 31st January 2016, Floodlines takes shape as a densely layered and detailed electro-acoustic mass blurring the distinctions between the unaltered sounds of birdcalls, moving water, and possibly motor boat engines, with junctures of processed, impenetrably woven collage.

We could be totally wrong, but the source recordings feel autumnal, with crisp sense of space and silty clarity possibly revealed by a lack of surrounding foliage, lending the piece a fresh but chilly atmosphere and brittleness of tone, as opposed to lushness.

Fluid Radio (UK):

The Fens, a naturally marshy region in eastern England, has been a rich source of inspiration for musician Simon Scott for a number of years now. Over the course of three albums, from 2012’s “Below Sea Level”, through last year’s “Insomni”, to the recently released “Floodlines”, it’s possible to hear how his relationship to the Fens is constantly changing, reflecting both personal circumstances and his deepening understanding of these complex watery landscapes. Yet however integral the Fens may be to Scott’s musical project, they nonetheless retain a ‘personality’ all of their own, a sonic and material existence that stands apart from the form and expression of the music.

In “Insomni”, the Fens are heard only fleetingly, as receptacles into which the tumult of the previous night’s sleepless thoughts are emptied. “Floodlines” can be heard as the turning inside out of this balance: melody and virtuosity take a back seat, and the outside world becomes the focus of attention. Everywhere water gushes; rattles and chirps imply a richly diverse ecosystem; hydrophones transmit the gurgle and click from the deep. This isn’t an album of unmediated field recordings, however. Composed sounds, such as a narrowband buzzing that builds into a crescendo, a steady droning chord, and pitched tones and chimes heard over a driving bass oscillation add additional tightly-woven layers to this intricate sonic sphere.

Despite the weight and density of these interventions, their confounding of what I’d normally expect to hear from an outdoor field recording, it’s often very difficult to tell which sounds come from the environment and which were composed. Like the Fens themselves, which despite appearing entirely natural are the product of centuries of drainage and other landscaping efforts, “Floodlines” blurs the distinction between the human and the non-human, the listener and the listened-to. Instead of using the Fens to provide context to his own thoughts and emotions, it’s as if Scott was trying to harmonise the composed sounds with the found ones, to make his thrums and drones sing in tune with the landscape, whether that means echoing the serenity of the Fens or their chaos and unpredictability.

All of this mirroring serves to demonstrate an affect: it’s possible to lose yourself in the act of listening, to become all ears, to lose sight of the line between environmental and composed or processed sound, between Scott’s listening and yours. This speaks of the inherent shareability or communicability of sounds: they exist between us, part of the milieu that connects us. “Floodlines” offers a way to hear this milieu differently, to come across an environment and all its life, humans included, from a fascinating new angle. Through listening, Scott comes to know the Fens, and we come to know his knowing, albeit mediated and transformed.

Norman Records (UK):

As expected, the drummer from Slowdive eventually metamorphosed into a drone orienteer, so if you haven’t already, I’m going to ask you to update your musical rolodex. Take your knowledge of Simon Scott as a shoegaze rhythm section and grow him back into life as a man of field recordings, gentle ambient noise and widespread crescendos. It’s what he would’ve wanted (just in case of any confusion, he’s still alive-Clint). ‘Floodlines’, his latest CD for Touch, is a single-track tone poem about the micromanagement of nature: the water overflows and we the people come in to keep it chill.

A recording of a particularly sturdy Cafe Oto performance, ‘Floodlines’ at first seems a basic proposition: slowly climaxing ambient music that begins at near silence and develops into a hazy mix in which field recordings are overwhelmed by scattered noise. Volume increases, is what I’m basically saying, but Scott occasionally makes his sounds compartmental: synth glitches blast through as if from a new Fennesz record, while animals chirping under sauntering heat can be heard clearly under the bouts of hiss, recalling the rather impartial way Dolphins Into the Future document ecosystems.

As an ecological art piece, the writing’s on the wall: Scott’s sound is a blend of the natural and the artificed, and captures the sounds made by both, together. It could be seen as a an observation on people trying to maintain the consequences of their own environmental impact — the louder, droning textures often feel like a metaphor for the sound pollution inherent with site work, and the sounds of trucks backing up make such moments literal. This record is lots of things at once — it can be watery, busy, pastoral and industrial, but it seems fitting that none of these can be separated from one another. [Robin]

The Wire (UK):

Gonzo Circus (Belgium):

De Brit Simon Scott, vooral bekend als drummer van de band Slowdive, heeft een opvallende band met de zee. Na soloalbums als ‘Navigare’ en ‘Below Sea Level’ komt hij nu aanzetten nu met ‘Floodlines’, wat wateroverlastsignaleringssystemen betekent. Blij dat we dat mogen neerschrijven en niet hoeven uit te spreken. Het album is een liveopname van begin dit jaar, en telt één lange elektro-akoestische compositie van een half uur. Vergezeld van een micro- en een hydrofoon – om zowel op als onder water op te nemen – trok Scott naar The Fens, een natuurgebied in Oost-Engeland en legde er bronmateriaal voor deze liveset vast. Het geluid van gutsend water en fluitende vogels vloeit op ‘Floodlines’ samen met verbasterde ruis, trillende bassen, gemanipuleerde klanken en abstracte ambientnoise. Scott dompelt je onder in dezelfde wateren als die van labelgenoot Christian Fennesz zijn ‘Black Sea’, waarop de nacht zijn intrede maakte via gesloten gitaarruis, klinkend als kolkende golven. ‘Floodlines’ is een even gelaagd album dat langzaamaan komt opzetten. Pas naar het einde toe gaat het signaleringssysteem in het rood en zet Scott de sluizen volledig open. Je bent alvast gewaarschuwd.


The promo material describes Simon Scott as a UK sound ecologist. Sound ecology appears to be an academic discipline for studying the effects of sound (natural and manmade) on the environment. In addition to being a sound ecologist, composer, and multi-instrumentalist Simon Scott has explored electroacoustic music for the past 14 years. On January 21, 2016 Simon performed “FloodLines” at the Cafe OTO in London as part of Touch Presents… and this performance is now available on CD as FloodLines. Scott manipulates field recordings of water, insects, birds, and manmade sounds and mixes them in real time with electronics, effects, and keyboards to create the continuously shifting soundscape “FloodLines.” Some of the material is so heavily processed that the source is unrecognizable. Never static, the composition requires a considerable amount of active listening to appreciate. Otherwise it is reduced to background noise. I am not all sure what message Scott is trying to convey via “FloodLine” as most of the 30 minutes is composed of white noise and various water sounds. Given the cover art, I suppose “FloodLines” is the musical equivalent of rising water after a heavy rain, but this interpretation is quite a stretch. If you are a fan of abstract amorphous soundscapes, then FloodLines is for you. [Henry Schneider]