Well friends, the time has come. I have acquired a fancy new mechanical keyboard for the pure purpose of encouraging me to write more (since the board on my laptop is utterly dreadful) and I’m going to give it a trial run on this, one of my most hotly anticipated albums of the year, heck, the last 3 years, Lusine’s The Waiting Room.
2009 saw the release of a 180 degree turn in Lusine’s work in A Certain Distance; a paradigm shift in his previously IDM and experimental electronic sound that began to explore into more pop-infused reached of Microhouse and Minimal Techno. As it stands, it remains to be one of my favourite albums of all time and caused a radical change in my own listened habits, more towards the kind of music I’m preferential to today. So then, how would whatever Lusine produced subsequently possibly compare? An album that I have been waiting for the last 4 years almost is bound to have some unrealistic expectations attached and I wont lie to you I was really hesitant to begin listening, but it was better than I could have dreamed.
This album has multiple facets to it; on the one hand we have the more grounded and familiar Minimal Techno origins but it’s also balanced against the Microhouse vibes that ACD set out with. The combination is powerful, with delicate and emergent rhythms as set out in the Techno style balanced against much more driven House beats, so Lusine’s typical synth exploration married against stronger beats. Opener “Panoramic” set out this sound for us well with its sweeping drone chased up by rolling synth beats and forward pushing basslines, wrapped in emergent and evolving electronic textures as it rises to a light crescendo. It’s a sound that is chased up later in the album also, in fact at the complete opposite end with the final two tracks “Stratus” and “February” respectively. Both of them are more retrospective in sound and both of them could have come from some of his earlier albums. The striking pace and stereo synth of “Stratus” coupled with its distal shouts and echoes would make it feel at home on Serial Hodgepodge or perhaps even an older album of his like Condensed. In fact, it is the mirror of the comparatively gentle penultimate track “Cirrus” on his previous album; a sense of duality begins to emerge.
“February” is a different animal completely, closing the album less on stratospheric beats and more downtempo, refined ones. Strong basslines reemerge though, to keep the beats rolling, but this 7 minute closer named after the month of the album’s release is an optimistic and driven number in its own right, spinning out its riffs for minutes on end before it hits a trough; the synths become more piercing, the House beats become more prominent and snippets of voice cut and dodge through. It’s bright and bold and yearning, and an excellent closer as we fade to black. The other side of the album is the same alternative side that A Certain Distance also introduced into his sound, one where vocals are part of the primary fabric of the tracks. Opener “Panoramic” is chased up by the best track of the album IMHO “Get The Message”, the first truly vocal lead track Lusine has ever made. Its downtempo vibe is more reminiscent of tracks like “Gravity” from the previous album, and the lyrics are equally enigmatic:
“I dont know where to begin
I’m living in sin
How can you talk?
Look where you’ve been”
Ok, probably a bad example, but it does vocalise the fundamental message of this album, this idea of damaged relationships and the stresses and strains they possess. But there is not a trace of regret or sadness, just a very firm albeit downbeat vibe. “Lucky” follows it up swiftly with what sounds like Vilja Larjosto of “Two Dots” fame back at the mic, this time the sound is much more familiar and could have been lifted straight out of the ACD files, but that means it sort of feels out of place. Its chopped vocals and barely evolving beats are quite pale and bland, and it’s the only low point of the album for me. Pre-release single “Another Tomorrow” lightens the mood a little later on with jovial, bouncy electronica and lightly fuzzed and even stranger lyrics than seen so far. At first I didnt enjoy this track but it really works very well in the context of the album and it seems to have an almost childlike innocence to it which I like.
“Without A Plan” is perhaps the most chilled out and relaxed track of the album; syncopated synthesised wind instruments roll in the pauses between verses and then reversed synth tones kick in at the chorus to create these rising staccato beats. “By This Sound”, the last track with any real words in, seems to devolve a little further again, replacing the heavy vocoder usage of ACD with some digital distortion and obfuscation, blurring and pixelating the lyrics and blending the female layers with another male-sung set beneath and again this sense of parting comes through (and considering how it is followed by the bold flight of “Stratus”, perhaps this parting is forced, maybe even temporary).
“You’ve been here before
on this drive with me
When the city grows
what a sight to see”
Beautiful in its simplicity and lilted vocals it’s one of my favourite tracks.
Like any album that I really and truly love, writing about it fully and in detail normally exceeds the normal word limit and actually says less than I would like. The Waiting Room is the opposite of A Certain Distance in that it has none of the social anxieties or insecurities bound within the downtempo Minimal Techno and light Glitch elements of its ancestor, focusing instead on a sound that is more hopeful and progressive, a sound that looks towards the future while we are stuck in this limbo state. It is the sound of change and separation, those final moments of preparation sat anxiously in the departure lounge waiting for the flight to take you away from your better half, but even then it still manages to end on a chipper and hopeful note. Once again it is an intelligently designed album with plenty of personal interpretation allowed and will definitely end up within my top10 albums for this year. Check it out.