Lamin Fofana – Unsettling Scores · Album Review ⟋ RA

Lamin Fofana - Unsettling Scores · Album Review ⟋ RA

Lamin Fofana – Unsettling Scores · Album Review ⟋ RA
  • Moody, cinematic ambient music that probes the depth and devastation of the climate emergency.
  • Since his family moved to Guinea, after fleeing civil war in Sierra Leone, experimental producer and composer Lamin Fofana has gone from harnessing the roots of Detroit techno to exploring uncharted regions of contemporary sound art. By cultivating a practice he calls transmuting text into sound, Fofana has used the works of poets who address themes like migration, displacement and colonial thinking to inform and invigoriate the spirit of his music and the resistance it represents. His latest album, Unsettling Scores, addresses how a lack of meaningful action surrounding the climate emergency has severe implications for Black life. Take, for example, Caribbean islands where there has been a six-fold increase in the number of children displaced by storms. Over seven tracks of densely textured ambient music, Unsettling Scores meshes eerie organic sounds and industrial ambience into a cataclysmic sensory experience. As dry soundscapes give way to walls of hissing static that land like rain, it’s almost as if you’re witnessing rapid environmental change in real time.

    Fofana paints sometimes barren, sometimes lively landscapes that range from rural to urban. On opener “Tune Of Departure,” whirring synthlines sound like they’re scanning previously inhabited land for signs of life, while ghostly keys conjure an air of displacement. “Erosion / / Whispers ‘a laminated shout'” unfurls like a wet monsoon. In the first half, pads shimmer like heat distorting the air, only to make way for micro-percussion that sounds like torrential rainfall hitting zinc roofs. Fofana’s gift for blurring the lines between organic and electronic are on full display here—this is detail-oriented ambient music that demands close listening.

    Not everything on the album is ambient or arrhythmic though. The closer “Oily (Resurfacing)” offers something close to dance music. Resonant dripping sounds and the churning of machinery form an upbeat techno track that seems to imply that, in spite of the damage to Earth’s climate that we’ve witnessed on the prior tracks, the exploitation of Earth’s resources will continue regardless of the consequences.

    The true doomer centerpiece of Unsettling Scores is “A Symbol of the Withdrawn God Redux,” an 11-minute rework of another track from 2016. Here, hammering sounds and grainy organs combine into a landscape of gritty industrial noise, with choral pads adding a hint of the celestial. The title plays on the concept of the withdrawn high god, or deus otiosus in ancient West African religions. After all, only a laissez-faire god could allow the mudslides, hurricanes and general devastation this track meditates on to continue uninterrupted. There’s a cinematic edge to Fofana’s style of ambient music, which disguises high stakes and existential dread with what can feel like peaceful quietude. Unsettling Scores both soundtracks and prods the status quo, a premonition from beyond the climate emergency’s point of no return, to a future where nothing has really changed and everything is worse.

  • Tracklist
      01. Tune Of Departure
      02. A Symbol Of The Withdrawn God Redux
      03. Erosion / Whispers “a laminated shout”
      04. Broken Time Of Transition
      05. Rehearsal Of Truth
      06. The Ocean After Nature
      07. Oily (Resurfacing)