Lusine - A Certain Distance

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  • Is Jeff McIlwain, the Seattle techno producer who works under the name Lusine, starting to go pop? Maybe. A little. Sort of. Is this a bad thing? Not at all—in fact, it gives A Certain Distance, his second full album for Ghostly, more reach than 2004's Serial Hodgepodge, and not just because he's working with vocalists more. This still sounds like a Lusine album: it's still largely abstract, still in McIlwain's tonal comfort zone, still partial to timbres that scan as lustrous to techno lovers and as kind of grey to non-partisans. Where Serial Hodgepodge bumped its share but still felt a little camera-shy, A Certain Distance is grabbier than its title suggests, and that is, often, down to the singing. "Singing," of course, is a relative term here, since McIlwain likes to smear and serrate the human voice as much as he does the clipping beats, curdling static and glossy keyboards that make up the rest of his work. As you'd figure, the types of voices he likes best have a kind of foghorn breathiness: two Distance tracks guest-star Vilja Larjosto, a Finnish singer-songwriter, whose work here is pleasant but lacks bite; another, "Gravity," features Caitlin Sherman. Apart from "Two Dots," though, few of these voices, including whomever it is making his/her way into the relatively straightforward (and rather beautiful) "Crowded Room"—maybe McIlwain himself—do much enunciating, at least by the time it reaches our ears. McIlwain is a subtle and smart producer, and while sometimes he can seem more subdued than is necessary, there's a lot to uncover here. Particularly in the album's second half—tracks six through eleven are where most of the meat is. "Gravity" is subtly funky, pitter-patterned hi-hats over irregular-just-so pulse, while McIlwane cuts Sherman's voice into a series of stroboscopic, charged, percussive confetti-patterns. "Baffle" builds and builds some more for until it's slowly but gently swallowed your headphones, before receding quickly. "Every Disguise" is curling and enveloping, its micro-sound-bites traipsing evenly, apart from a stray bit of static that goes on just far enough past where it should to set the whole thing slightly off. And on "Double Vision" a ruminative keyboard figure in foreground seems to play with its own timing, dragging before landing on the beat and making it sound new each time. Then some others join it, and they help.
  • Tracklist
      01. Operation Costs 02. Two Dots 03. Tin Hat 04. Thick of It 05. Twilight 06. Baffle 07. Every Disguise 08. Double Vision 09. Gravity 10. Crowded Room 11. Cirrus