The music industry is, and almost certainly will continue to be, something of a ‘hype industry’. All too often we see talented artists swamped in a sea of of enthusiastic but unimaginative producers churning out the sonic flavour of the month. It’s often the case that when an artist produces ‘gold’ early on, they are put under huge pressures to quickly replicate their successes before they’ve had time to develop and refine their sound. Scottish producer Lord Of The Isles, aka Neil McDonald, has managed not to fall into this trap, allowing his production style to develop over a more considered and mature timeframe. The proof is in his latest offering, which comes to us a full ten years after McDonald’s first venture into music production back in 2003: an ambitious 5-track E.P entitled 301C Symphony.
Title track 301C Symphony is an engaging opener. Held together by an unpredictable organ melody that is enveloped by a fluid haze of sound, it’s a track that nods to the celestial. McDonald steers away from some of the density associated with Techno and House, giving the listener space to think: it’s calmed yet danceable. In contrast, the next serving, Co20, draws from the Acid-House movement, utilizing a tried and tested formula: fizzing bass patterns anchoring a minimalist production aesthetic. It is an exciting progression from the EP’s opening.
With a string of high-profile releases already available on London’s Phonica Records and native Scottish label Shevchenko (among others), LOTI has cultivated a unique sound, influenced in no small part by an early interest in Ambient Electronica. Fyne is a apt example. Textured pads swirl in the periphery, while more central features filter in and out of focus. On the one hand, these characteristics make for the sort of ‘easy listening’ so typical of Ambient Electronica, but more than that, they create a hypnotic aesthetic, which is a direct product of such intelligent handling of composition. The introduction of a brooding bass line mid-way through the track provides an unsettling and effective contrast to what came before. Horizon Effect continues this theme, while Western Electric provides a deluge of coastal ambiance.
The waves crashing in the distance show not only a visceral handling of his working material, they also resonate with LOTI’s individual identity (the title ‘Lord Of The Isles‘ refers to an antiquated position of Scottish nobility, with historical roots in the Western Isles of Scotland). The title of the track is almost certainly a reference to the stormy Western Isles, on which McDonald confesses he spends a lot of time, absorbing the substance of the place. On reflection, it seems that LOTI’s sound is just as much rooted in Scotland as it is in Chicago and Detroit. The result is that 301C Symphony feels like a particularly honest offering. Lord Of The Isles has had the time to craft intelligent music with a conscience – music that’s benefited from a healthy period of development and refinement – the end product of which is a fantastic listen.