Scott Morgan spent the two albums he made prior to Sketches from New Brighton, Endless Falls and Coast/Range/Arc, expanding on his subtle ambient approach.
On this collection, however, he pulls in a bit, using the experience from those explorations to craft something just as rich as those albums in spite (or perhaps because) of its simplicity.
As with all of Morgan's work, Sketches from New Brighton establishes a striking sense of place within its music, not just because it was inspired by an actual location -- in this case, an oceanside park near the Vancouver Port Authority -- but because it has so much depth.
Over the course of the album, a handful of sounds combine in ways full of hushed beauty and creativity, emphasizing the sculptural nature of these tracks.
"Khanahmoot" begins things with gentle but engaging gradations that prepare listeners for the more ambitious explorations to come.
One of these is the eight-and-a-half-minute-long "Second Narrows" (whose name makes this album's connection to Loscil's 2004 album First Narrows more explicit).
It's one of the most expansive showcases for Morgan's almost imperceptible shifts, as the dark pulse that makes up the album's heart is joined by delicately layered beats and synths that get more fractured and active as the song nears its close.
On this song and the rest of Sketches from New Brighton, a watercolor softness and transparency to the sounds pull in listeners ever so gently and give an almost subliminally soothing effect to many of its tracks, such as "Container Ships," which feels nearly amniotic in its weightless intimacy, or the lulling warmth of "Coyote." However, not all of the album is so cozy: "Hastings Sunrise" boasts a sharply metallic tone that recalls a shakuhachi flute in its insistent loneliness, which envelops the rest of the track with a noir-ish glamour and mystery that make it all the more striking, and "Collision of the Pacific Gatherer"'s bassline adds an ominous undertone to the rippling electronics that overlay it.
Yet these changes in mood are as subtle as everything else on the album; all the better to discover the different ways these songs flow into each other.
Sketches from New Brighton may not be as immediately gripping as Endless Falls or Coast/Range/Arc, but its never-showy refinements are just as impressive in their own way.