Loscil Commonwealth, Calgary AB, June 24

Loscil Commonwealth, Calgary AB, June 24
Photo: Steve Louie
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It's idealistic to pretend otherwise, but thoughtful ambient music doesn't necessarily make for the best launch-off choice at the glorified pub crawl/musical family reunion that is Sled Island. Friends reconnecting with out-of-towners for the first time, cracking their first work-night beer and discussing their weekend's schedule conflicts — these are distracting activities that don't necessarily work well with quietness or subtlety.

Undeterred by the chatter of the audience, however, Vancouver maestro Loscil (born Scott Morgan) soldiered on with his perfectly crafted ambient tones. It was for the best, as his washes of sound slowly enveloped the room and commanded everyone's attention; the few songs with pulsing beats were downright captivating.

One up side of the busy festival atmosphere is the variety of context provided by casual concertgoers. Outside the venue, I met a junior accountant who'd never heard a note of ambient music in his life, and who was floored by Loscil's avant production and sparse visual accompaniment. "It's like trance, but like, natural trance," he said. "Organic trance."

While that might send a shiver down the spine of anyone interested in Loscil's careful compositions (and possibly trance fans, as well), it was a fitting tribute to the artist's hypnotizing set.