Track Review: Lusine – Another Tomorrow

Ok, first time doing one of these. I am somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of reviewing singular tracks because, well, most of the time how much is there really to say? Without the surrounding contextual environment of the album that the track fits within it feels like I cant fully appreciate the output of the track, but I love this way too much and am far too exciting for the impending album that I just had to write this one up.

3 years ago Lusine, a Minimal Techno and Ambient musician with a decade of experience in electronic, released a blinder of an album in A Certain Distance. It’s an important album for me because it had a huge impact on my musical listening habits and swayed me dramatically away from the more dance-orientated electronic I’d been listening to and led me towards the more ambient music I listen to today. Needless to say at the time of its release I was completely obsessed by it, and it remains to be one of my most played albums of all time. It was a drastic change in his own sound, with the same firm and characteristic Techno beats and glitches of his older works but moving with an almost pop-like grace, introducing vocoders and female vocalists into the mix.

Finally he’s decided to chase A Certain Distance up with a new album dropping in mid-February 2013 on Ghostly International, The Waiting Room, and if this precursor single is anything to go by, it looks like we’re in for a stunner once again. At once it seems to chase up the sounds lain down by ACD, with enigmatic and vocoder heavy vocals sitting firmly at the fore (ala “Twilight” for those familiar) and yet while the rich techno beats that make up the vast majority of the track sound so characteristically Lusine they feel almost more refined, almost more poppy than what we’ve seen before, with firm basslines, clipped synths, rolling glitch beats and various un-nameable oscillating, bouncy, jovial electronica tones that give this piece a euphoria.

I’ve listened to this a lot over the last few weeks and I’ve slowly been piecing together the lyrics, although much of it is still incomprehensible. This is true of the work he did in ACD as well and even now, 3 years after release, I’m still lost as to the meaning behind some of the tracks. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

The shadows are chasing the moon

I’m running away

Their chasing my ? with ?

To leave it behind

It’s only the light of the moon

I light up my hand

I run into tomorrow

To see you again

So once again the mystery is running full tilt with this release as before, and like before it’s clear that there are obvious messages and stories buried behind the defence shield of the introverted and shy Jeff McIlwain that is Lusine and his dense electronic creations. Honestly, if this is in any way representative of what the album has to offer as a whole, I think I may fall in love with Lusine’s work all over again.

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Christoph Berg – Paraphrases (2012)

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Debut album of Field Rotation’s Christoph Berg, Paraphrases.

Three instruments alone form this heartbreaking album; the double bass, the piano and the violin. Of course, this is a point that has been raised in numerous reviews of this release, but it’s an important point to make I feel; the narrow range of classical instrumentation results in a clean, pure and more intimate sound, one that is not so easy to pull off. The sparsity of the textures lays everything out to dry and any slight imperfection would ruin it; luckily Berg seems to be a man who knows what he’s doing.

The opening track “Falling Asleep” introduces the somewhat uncomfortable nature of the album; while the soft sounds of the violin in all its multi-layered, multi-textural beauty are calming and soothing there is also a distinctly unsettling and dark tone, reminiscent of the dark thoughts that swill within our subdued unconscious while sleeping. “Elegy” moves us along and is every iota of its namesake; a “piece of music in a mournful style”. The double bass begins to make its presence known as it sets a slow pace whilst the wistful strings force some mournful notes out.

As we move into “Poems Written  By An Old (Prepared) Piano”, delicate field recordings begin to seep into the sound as the clack of the typewriter mirrors the lightly distorted piano chords that patter quietly. The music is even more minimal than before, stripped back to the absolute bare bones as we sit down to write a few words on the memories we have of sitting behind the old piano. The piano is disharmonious, sketches of memories of music from our childhood, the sound tired and dusty. “Buildings At Night” is our escape from this  nostalgia, bringing those piercing, elongate violin strings back again and submerging the night view with a light drone fog, or perhaps the bleak and ever present background rumbles and noises of any city.

Maybe the mid-album “Interlude” is going to introduce us to a somewhat less intense second half; a return to the warmth of daylight is summoned by the muffled shouts and chatter of a crowd, making way for a richer, drone filled latter track as we complete our escape to the countryside, away from the grey misery of the city. Crows and other admittedly ominous sounds begin to intrude; the crunch of leaves underfoot, the rustling of hedgerows; you never know quite where you’re at with this piece, nor indeed with this album. After a true interlude with minute “Paraphrases (Vinyl)” we approach my favourite track of the album, “A Small Path Crossing”. Defining quite what is appealing to me about this is tricky; there is a moment of focus and clarity where the overlapping violin textures seem to align and conjoin around 3 and 4 minutes in, the meeting of man and nature in a gesture as simple as crossing a stream over a bridge and pausing for a few seconds to look down its course.

And that’s all but it for this album; closer “Quiet Times At The Library” instills an atmosphere of calm and contemplation as we leave this gentle release behind, somehow making the prospect of sitting at a desk working an enjoyable task. Almost undetectable taps and scratches remind us we often dont work alone and draws us back to the work at hand at a time when perhaps our attention may waiver as our eyes cast over the other busy souls and the myriad of books.

It’s a minimal album for sure, and the frequent moments of disharmony may challenge listeners, but there are some real Modern Classical/Ambient gems here and I find myself being continually drawn back to the thin richness of the sound and the obviously meticulous and careful nature of its construction.

Kettel & Secede – When Can (2012)

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Kind of feels like I don’t remember how to write one of these things anymore it’s been that long. Been kept a bit busy and new material eludes me as of late, but new content is incoming.

Despite being rather quietly announced and relatively silently released, one of perhaps the most anticipated collaborations of the year in my musical sphere was When Can by these two quite significant musicians from the Netherlands. Over the last decade both of these artists have been producing powerfully influential works, even with relatively small discographies; both of them are firmly rooted in IDM but are highly progressive in their field, moving away from some of the more beat and Techno orientated foundations of the genre and focusing more on producing Ambient atmospheres laden with samples.

Fans of either of these artists will find themselves perhaps somewhat disappointed with the sounds here; I know of a few people who approached this album as though it would be the next Tryshasla, Secede’s seminal album now 8 years old. In fact When Can is not dominated by either artist, since it’s an album that pushes new ground for both; it is as though they have come together to form one perfect new entity.

Aptly titled opener “A New Factory” introduces the album with a sparse atmosphere and some wailing, string-esque sounds, a Secede flourish if I ever heard one. “Kirsten” follows it up quickly and begins to detail the scope of the album already, throwing in such things as a sampled French woman’s gentle voice to a brilliant saxophone inclusion with a strong 70’s vibe. “Admittance” has a sort of Enigma feel to it with its downtempo beats and faux Gregorian chanting alongside its relatively more rigid electronic beat structure, waxing and waning between synth warbles and ambient interludes.

“Pentimento” is once again completely different, with a curiously medieval sound in its harpsichord but feels inescapably modern with strong and jovial electronic bounces. Subtle field recordings creep into the textural chaos, especially at the end as owls, frogs and horses segue us into the Asian overtones of “Ringvanes” with its wet synths, sitar and xylophones, amongst an abundance of other instrumentation. This album really is extremely dense and texturally complex, it’s impossible to list every sonic signature in a single track let alone them all.

“Missing Time” provides a perfect mid-album ambient interlude into the glitchy, obviously Kettel dominated, “Jahe”, spinning sparse electronic bubbles and an appropriately unsettling atmosphere for its 5 minute duration. The previous album theme returns in the luxuriously downtempo “Deliria Noon” before moving into my absolute favourite track of the album “Fullmoon”. The end of “Deliria Noon” is interesting since it actually implements this tracks lyrics, buried deep in the background as though from a distant radio outside the wood-cabin view it simulates. It has an utterly mesmerising beat, stacking bells with percussion, claps and whistles to create a really driven piece that waxes and wanes like any solid pop track and with just such a bright atmosphere that you cant help but smile at its quirkiness.

Penultimate “Grandcan” is similarly excellent, it’s like the perfect cooldown after the hectic party of “Fullmoon”, with its practically hymnal vocals, piano work and ethereal synth drones; just beautiful. Finally, closer “Canned Forever” is a surprisingly downtrodden and minimal piece; spanning 8 minutes it brings together plenty of violin and synth with fragmented and heavily processed vocals to create a surprisingly dense piece that, with its seagull squawks, elicit memories of sitting alone on the beach on an overcast Winter’s morning. It’s a little disappointing in all honestly, given how eclectic the album before it is, but it’s not terrible.

Overall, an extremely competent and very well produced album. Everything is extremely crisp, every texture in the complex bazaar that is this album has its own space and is most importantly a necessary contribution to whatever track it ruminates in. Fans of their earlier works may not necessarily like this because it’s so different from either of their individual works, but I would highly recommend it to any IDM and Ambient fans out there.