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Lusine - A Certain Distance

LUSINE - A CERTAIN DISTANCE (Ghostly International)

Does the world really need more electronic lap-pop right now? The Americans seem to think so, with Texan native Jeff McIlwain providing his 3rd album for Ghostly. Sitting precariously between genres such as triphop, synthpop, IDM and minimal tech-house, he spends most of his time on this release trying to eek out new directions, aided this time by the addition of vocalists for three tracks. McIlwain’s sonic world never seems to venture further than some of the more self-absorbed alleys of hip-hop funk that Scott Herren and Tadd Mullinix have made their own domain, but to be fair, he does add a certain melodic zest to his compositions that make one sit up and notice, even if the accompanying production treatment doesn’t.

“A Certain Distance” opens with the 100 bpm “Operation Costs” which sallies forth with a summery tinge, rather like a slowed-down Bitstream, but underwhelms. Things are rectified however by the Scandinavian vocals of Vilija Larjosto, who croons her way through the spectral (!) synthpop of “Two Dots”. Her treated voice laces proceedings with a much-needed human touch, and there’s a sense of warmth that doesn’t colour the somewhat academic feel that pervades elsewhere.  “Every Disguise” tries to enter Perlon-esque territory with its jackhammer beats, but it just ends up sounding inferior. McIlwain returns to the sort of kaleidoscopic techno that he prefers with “Double Vision”, and to be fair, he produces a track that has the sort of glass-like beauty that seem to central to Ghostly’s vision. “Crowded Room” rushes along with an insistent charisma, and together with the bonhomie of “Cirrus” bring matters to a satisfactory close.

There’s no doub that McIlwain has a lot of musical ideas in his head, but I found it frustrating that so often matters seemed to be dominated by the axis of rhythm. When caught between so many genres, it can be the case that this part of composition begins to matters from the offset, and for me “A Certain Distance” had a patchwork feel to it, with it being broken up into styles rather than any sort of colouring from a textural or emotional perspective. As such, it was hard to follow the album with any real ease, other than through the spidery melodies that McIlwain provides, which lose their grip beyond an initial 4 or 5 listens.

Toby Frith


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