CD, Ant-Zen, 2010
If ever, in the annals of electronic music, there was a more apt name for an album, I have yet to find it. “Undertow”, the most recent release by Seattle’s one-man-electronic-army, Scott Sturgis, is a wonderful example of deep, seething discontent lurking beneath a veneer of electronic atmospheres that is just waiting to drag the unwary listener to previously unplumbed depths of the tortured human psyche.
Although Sturgis is best-known in electronic circles for his industrial project, Converter, Lowness displays a refinement to his technique that often wasn’t evident in his dancefloor-destroying, beat-driven prior forays. Lowness is characterised by profound subtlety – illustrated by meticulous texturing, intelligent structure, patient sequencing and powerfully moving emotional atmospheric work. Ambient music has evolved, it seems, under the care of Scott Sturgis. “Undertow” appears set to redefine the ambient genre in much the same way that Coverter’s “Blast Furnace” album broke boundaries in rhythmic noise.
The greatest difficulty I encountered in reviewing this release is this: identifying a highlight. Whether listening to the album as presented, shuffled or in a playlist alongside artists like Oxyd, Fractional or Bipol (Punch Inc’s progressive side project – it seems even the harshest industrial artists need a softer side)… this hybrid of industrial and droning martial ambient is a bizarre, intense and often psychedelic listening experience. Definitely not for the faint-hearted…
It is a pleasant rarity to encounter such a considered, mature approach to themes that are usually dealt with in an adolescent, confrontational (read: distorted vocals + industrial beats + catchy lead synth riffs) manner; the darker side of electronic music receives, in the form of “Undertow”, a much-needed shot in the arm.
— David van der Merwe