Mapping has come a long way in the past decade, so much so that we can almost touch the rough edges of the coast nowadays simply by pressing a button wirelessly. Marcus Fischer’s Monocoastal takes us on a drifting aural travelogue that meanders from pinpoint locations into banal stretches that hint of human existence and faded memories. These subtle tracks are like translucent sketches where the depth of field is tripped and stretched rather gently by the expanse of fine tonal values. Fischer’s strings and pings on “Mossbank” and the title track reverb in a Cascadian glow at midday and don’t look away from the stream of deadpan light ahead.
If Monocoastal were to imply a topographical line, it has succeeded in being anything but straight ahead. One of the more captivating qualities of this record is that there is a sense of distance, of anonymity. It’s as though Fischer is watching, waiting, ready to pounce in dynamic tension but instead takes a big breath and exhales into a new passage. Perhaps the result is a form of ritualized circular breathing, like that of a conditioned jazz brassman going full tilt. The softly undulating gestures are like a landmass meeting the recessing sea. This is especially pronounced on the sumptuous “Shape to Shore.” It is the tease of the waves that draws the ear in, it’s fairly subliminal yet the field recordings blend with the processing like fog lifts from the glassy surface of water at high tide.
Lethargic passages lead into restrained moments made from electric hiss and whispers of percussion, almost like wind moving through an empty room. You can loosely picture a simple backyard, an old gated fence, clothesline and the ghosts of those playing mere yards away. But rather than pure melancholic nostalgia, Monocoastal brings a bit of poker-faced earthliness to a genre often too abstract or clinical. “Between Narrow and Small” is one of those classic ambient tracks that draws you in with its patient phrasing and tiny goings-on. Still there remains this lingering hesitance throughout, a somewhat converging skeptical dialectic emerges—as if Fischer is both questioning and observing nature simultaneously.