Head up to the San Fernando Valley and you might hear a few odd noises fluttering into the deep blue skies; nestled amongst the moans and groans that shake the foundations of every whitewashed house in Van Nuys, and the clapperboard clanks emanating from the area's endless movie studios, is a beguiling blend of library music, cosmic Americana, and sunblushed new age noodling.
Subtle Vertigo is 28 year old LA native Scott Gilmore's first album for International Feel, the Balearic powerhouse helmed by the one and only Mark Barrott, and it's a record set to send a certain kind of listener into a tailspin. If you daydream about sunsets at La Torre, have considered dropping a hundred quid on that Aficionado, or keep a stash of Alfredo cassettes in a replica of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, you'll have found the perfect accompaniment for summer 2017's indoor barbecue season.
Just remember one thing, though: its creator doesn't necessarily think of it as a Balearic album. "I was never familiar with that genre prior to meeting Mark," he tells me down the phone from his house in LA County. Given how infused the LP is with the sort of Ibizan haziness transplants us from the outer reaches of Sunderland to San Antonio in a split second, that might seem a little surprising. Then again, isn't the whole point of the Balearic ideal that it is, in effect, a genre-less genre?
"When you make music," Scott says, "you can see past that, and the minute you hear something you take the genre thing with a grain of salt. I don't think of music like that. I just try and listen to it, and see how I feel about it. I tend to describe music more for its qualities."
"Bucolic" is one of the most prominent qualities you'd attach to the music made by this slightly reserved, unfailingly polite, sleepy-sounding Californian, who's slim back catalogue only stretches thus far to Subtle Vertigo and last year's SFV Record's released Volume 01. That record—sitting somewhere between Matt Mondanile's work as Ducktails, forgotten late 70s private press bedroom psychedelia, and Haruomi Hosono's seminal Pacific album—is the sound of an aimless wander through fields in early-spring. Subtle Vertigo, then, is its late-summer nocturnal equivalent. Just you, the cicadas, and the endless sprawl of city limits melting into wooded nothingness.
You'd think, from his output, that Scott Gilmore spends a lot of time trekking through fields, baring the brunt of grass-burn and nettle-rash, but he tells THUMP that he's far more likely to be found sat in the sheltered cool of the studio. Despite the sizeable population, Scott sees LA and its near-infinite sprawl as, "a city of homebodies." He mentions that down in the valley, there's a distinct lack of public spaces. "Most places are are designed for you to walk into just to buy things." That creeping commercialisation, plus the place's notorious traffic problems and non-navigable enormity mean that Scott feels like he works outside of any city-specific music scene, more than happy to stay out there in the relative seclusion of the peripheries.
Gilmore's music found its way to Mark Barrott's Ibizan bolthole via LA-based online radio station Dublab. "I gave a CD of my work to a friend who DJs on there," he says, "and then Frosty—the co-founder of the station—heard it and he began a correspondence over email." The pair would discuss new material that Scott had been working on, with Frosty eventually sending it out to a few labels on the artist's behalf. One of those labels was International Feel, one of those rare imprints that's been selective enough with signings over the years to attain the much sought after "buy on sight" status.
"He'd heard the majority of the tunes on Subtle Vertigo and asked me if I thought they were done. Some were, some needed work, and we'd go back and forth with ideas. Try this, try that, add that, add this," Gilmore says of his working relationship with the globe-trotting DJ and producer. "He's got a great ear, and wants a great product. He really cares about what he's putting on vinyl."
You can see what attracted Barrott to Gilmore's music. Album tracks like "Europe" and "Flight Through Grey" might have been conjured into being a few thousand miles away from the crystal-clear waters of the Mediterranean but they've still got an unmistakably International Feel-ian touch about them; light, melodious, somehow simultaneously of "now" and plausibly a hitherto unheard relic from a bygone age.
Whilst it touches on a variety of sounds—be it the pop-library of early Air, or the kind of crisply autumnal folk treasured by selectors like Moonbots, Siba K, and Andy Pye—Gilmore's latest never slips into pastiche or plasticity, a reflection of its creators on-off relationship with music itself.
A question about influences on the LP saw us skirting around the anxiety of influence, an idea posited by the literary critic Harold Bloom. Scott assured me that the reason he "wasn't listening to any music," during the making of Subtle Vertigo wasn't due to any Bloomian sense of consciously avoiding the potential pitfalls of unconscious absorption, but was instead a simply practical matter. "You need to give your ears a rest because when you're playing and mixing, you have to listen so closely," he says, sensibly. So much for high-minded theory-mingling. Even now, though, he rarely finds himself putting a record on after a day's work, telling me that Bach's "Well-Tempered Clavier" is the only thing he really listens to.
And all that—the near-hermitude, the non-listening, the single-mindedness of approach—has resulted in one of the year's best records to date. Scott Gilmore makes music for the moments late nights bleed into early mornings, when skies begin to shift, when you're left alone in your own liminality.
Subtle Vertigo by Scott Gilmore is released on June 16th by International Feel