- Lotic's new music brims with confidence and self-assuredness as she doles out opullent tracks about love, longing and, ultimately, loss.
- When Lotic first emerged from the shadows of Berlin in the mid-'10s in the Janus crew, she was part of a worldwide cabal of eccentric and ridiculously talented queer producers who have now acheived celebrity status—think the likes of the alien pop innovator Arca and the late genius SOPHIE. She rose through the ranks in a period when club music began to sound strange—so strange that even music journalists struggled to find the terminology to describe it. It was an exciting moment to be a dance music enthusiast, even more so if you were young, queer and a little weird.
Lotic, AKA J'Kerian Morgan, has undergone many changes since then. She left Janus and released a handful of successful records for Tri Angle and fabric's in-house label Houndstooth. She was mentored by Björk and then started experimenting with her vocals, a milestone first documented on her debut album, Power, in 2018. It was during that same year that she publicly announced her gender transition, a process that added another layer of personal significance to the LP. Power became an archive of this illuminating, albeit challenging, period of stark revelations Morgan had made about her identity. These pivotal life events have all led to Morgan releasing her sophomore album, Water. In the LP's press release, Morgan explains that it's a record about "having to be adaptable while being dragged through the trenches."
The most obvious shift on the new album is Morgan's voice. When she sings, it sounds like it's coming from the pit of her stomach, each syllable slowly leaving her airways like trails of cigarette smoke. Her vocal and lyrical mastery has developed since Power, where her vocals often arrived in hushed tones or warped by FX. On Water, Morgan quite literally finds her voice—and it's loud this time. Her otherworldly falsetto is a key ingredient in her gorgeous expressions of love, longing and, ultimately, loss.
The first half of the project deals with the early, dizzying stages of love. In "Emergency" she howls out each syllable with sensuous urgency. "Please fuck me?" she requests coyly. It's uttered so sweetly that by the track's close, all sense of taboo is expunged from the plea. You can hear her roots in experimental club music on tracks like "Come Unto Me," where grime-inspired synths are spry, and an industrial rhythm lumbers throughout. "Stroking your nape, breathing you in," she sighs, letting each word slowly hang off her lips like honey. At one point, a flurry of squeaky vocals whiz in, as if attempting, and failing, to squeeze themselves into a single beat.
When relationship blindspots are exposed in "Always You," the untroubled lust of earlier tracks matures into some of the album's most introspective moments. Morgan finds herself tethered to the same bygone relationship, and while there's a glint of recognition that it's time to move forward, Morgan insists, it's "always you!" String synths ascend in slow motion while rhythmic yelps propel everything forward, capturing the all-consuming gratification of returning to an old flame.
On "Diamond," she laments shrinking herself for the sake of preserving an ill-fated relationship. On tracks like this, ascetic arrangements can quickly morph into roaring endings. Here, opening airy music box chimes are ultimately annihilated by brass synths, and then, in a moment of clear-eyed sobriety, there is silence. Morgan lowers the pitch of her voice to deliver a solemn farewell to a relationship that has overstayed its welcome: "This entanglement has expired," she announces.
Water is wrapped in a polished grandeur, marking a huge leap from her previous releases. Referencing Morgan's self-fulfilment, on "Changes," Julius Errol Flynn enunciates slowly so that there is no room for misinterpretation: "She is self, self is her / It's now you bitches / That need to catch the tea / That taste of reality." On a more forlorn tip, in "Oblivious," Morgan whispers in a serpentine vibrato to a distracted lover: "Couldn't you feel… my heart reaching out for you?" Recited at the start of the track it sounds like she is speaking into a cold, empty room, but eventually the walls close in and the track skews angry with white-blue zaps and an oppressive low-end. "Are you so oblivious," she seethes, as off-kilter percussion resembling buzzing insect wings lurks around.
Change is necessary. Whether it pertains to a relationship, an evolving identity or a career path, when we lean into change, rather than resist it, we are typically better for it. In Octavia Butler's novel Earthseed, the protagonist, an aspiring religious leader named Lauren writes a tenet: "As wind, as water, as fire, as life, God is both creative and destructive, demanding and yielding, sculptor and clay. God is Infinite Potential: God is Change." On Water, Lotic becomes somewhat of a deity herself, as she guides us through the many seasons of life and romance.
03. Come Unto Me
05. Always You
07. A Plea