The electronic sublime: Lusine's The Waiting RoomPop Matters, 2013
Ten years later and we are still commending the Postal Service’s single album, Give Up. That’s not a statement of incredulity; rather, a statement of disbelief. When songs are chewed up and spat out with the rapidity of a microwave lunch, ten years is an eternity to still give a damn about an album of electro-pop. But enough about the Postal Service—I did not come to praise it, I came to bury it in the wake of Lusine’s The Waiting Room.
From the label that may as well be the standard-bearer for innovative electronic-based music, Ghostly International houses consistently creative artists who are criminally underrated in popular music. Matthew Dear, Mux Mool, Phantogram, and Lusine, the singular vision of Texas musician Jeff McIlwain, an electronic manipulator more than capable of creating albums that can expand your aural sense while planting hooks in your cerebral cortex. He’s got a list of albums and LPs to submit for evidence of his talent, yet, The Waiting Room, despite its initial slow burn, may be his finest. Pick out any number of elements that coalesce into an impressive whole: the breadth of styles McIlwain demonstrates deep understanding of, the tiny electronic flourishes that go unnoticed without headphones, the climactic sequencing of the tracks. Sonically and instrumentally, there is more than enough to admire, but the extra bonus on The Waiting Room are the sublime vocal contributions from Sarah McIlwain, an extra layer of adornment piled on an already substantive record.
Creatively Produced and Beautifully ExecutedClash Music, 2009
The sound of a vocoder in any song usually causes me to begin weeping at how such a wonderful piece of equipment has been overused and fully bastardised. Cher is mostly to blame, though Daft Punk also have a lot to answer for.
So, it’s even more of a pleasure to hear a vocoder heighten the already blissful opening track of Lusine’s sublime new album, ‘A Certain Distance’. And though it may seem like a minor point to flag up, the vocoder use is symbolic of the whole record: creatively produced and beautifully executed.
What results is a slice of lush ambi-disco that simultaneously soothes and excites. Imagine Brian Eno and Apparat scoring the best mushroom trip you never had. Great care has clearly been taken over every sound by Lusine (Jeff McIlwain), but the record isn’t a painstaking, challenging listen. Instead, we hear a glorious celebration of the warmth that electronic music can achieve. Alright, I’m gushing here, but it’s justified - this is a unique record.(read more...)
Language Barrier: Hymen (¥-760)Textura, 2007
As Lusine (or Lusine Icl), Jeff McIlwain has established a well-deserved reputation as a beat sculptor extraordinaire but Language Barrier proves that his ‘ambient' side is just as exquisite. Characterizing it as such is a bit misleading, however, as the material isn't wholly free-floating but often grounded in rhythm structures—they're just not of the hard-hitting kind that give albums like Serial Hodgepodge such heft. The Hymen vet (McIlwain issued the full-length Iron City on the label in 2002 and contributed a 3-inch CD to the recent Travel Sickness box set) assembles Language Barrier's nine finely-detailed settings from gleaming tones, pitter-pattering beats, and an extensive library of (often voice-based) field recording elements.The album in its entirety is superbly executed. In “A Day Apart,” voices murmur alongside the entrancing tinkle of Rhodes tones and softly percolating beats, with the collective mass subtly building in intensity throughout its eight-minute journey. In “Jetstream,” a dense mass of heavenly voices murmurs while tinkling glockenspiel patterns, shimmering electronics, and subtle bass accents flesh out the deep sound. Delicate plucks of acoustic and electric guitars flutter over a ticking base in the subtly propulsive “On the Line”; by contrast, “Without Standing” is a beatless reverie that hypnotically segues between vinyl-encrusted piano ripples and drifting tones so perfectly-realized, one wishes it could go one forever. There's not a hair out of place in this immaculate material, and the taste and control McIlwain brings to its design is, quite simply, masterful.
Podgelism: Ghostly International (GI-68)Earplug, 2007
Jeff McIlwain's eight-year career as Lusine has produced a wealth of delicate, hyper-edited electronic music at an elegant intersection between glitch, IDM, and ambient sounds. Like today's hybrid cars, hybrid animals, and hybrid foods, Lusine's music has always been a mix of styles, so his hybrid artist/remix project Podgelism makes perfect sense: in addition to reworkings by some of techno's best talents (Lawrence, Dimbiman, Apparat), Lusine contributes three fine remixes of his own. Others readily adapt Lusine's amorphous compositions into solid dance-floor material: John Tejada's glassy, bass-throbbing grooves reframe"Make It Easy" as midnight techno, Deru explores abstract hip-hop on "Auto Pilot," and Robag Wruhme sexes up "The Stop" with anxious rhythms and long-decay reverb. Other artists, notably Cepia and Matthew Dear, stick closer to Lusine's blueprint of sharp, stuttering percussion and down-comforter synth arrangements, making Podgelism a sensationally balanced sonic statement.