Lord of the Isles, aka Neil McDonald, has form for creating panoramic odes to the outdoors. Inspired by the wide open spaces of his native Scotland, you’ll probably find him out and about the moors and rippling waters of quiet Highland lochs. That natural abundance easily lends itself to the drifting ambient and downtempo beats on Subtle Thoughts, one of two albums landing at the tail end of 2022 – the other being the forever delayed Night of the Endless Beyond.
Here, we’re playing in a world of immersive soundscapes and deep rumination as opener ‘Storm Mother’ gets things moving with field recordings of rain and rumbling skies providing the backdrop to a quivering electro melody. The distant dubbiness of ‘Lo-Theory’, soft techno of ‘Return to Yourself’ and twinkling arpeggios of ‘Peak Flow’ continue the journey, playing with states of mind as much as time and place before ‘Open Mode’ and title track ‘Subtle Thoughts’ close things out on high. Where the former is a bleepy, dubby, Aphex Twin-esque shapeshifter, the latter lets McDonald’s sci-fi influences beam through with pulsing electro and a sample of Carl Sagan, leaving behind a vivid image of Highland hikes where space, time and your own existence lie out there in the mist.