LP released: Sep 15, 2023
Seattle-based producer Jeff McIlwain, aka Lusine, returns with his 9th full-length record, Long Light, marking twenty years since he first joined the Ghostly International roster. A cited influence for myriad electronic artists including London's Loraine James and others, Lusine is known for visceral, kinetically-curious music that fuses techno, pop, and experimental composition. In recent years, McIlwain has pushed his craft skyward with more collaborative, song-forward work. Long Light shines the throughline; his signature looping patterns and textures are dynamic yet minimalist as ever. Structurally straightforward, tight, and bright, the material radiates as the most direct in his catalog, featuring vocal contributions from Asy Saavedra, Sarah Jaffe, and Sensorimotor collaborators Vilja Larjosto and Beno t Pioulard. Lusine found his sound early on, but he's never stopped pushing and pulling at its potential, patiently deconstructing the distractions and solving the puzzles. With Long Light, a laser-focused, process-driven artist reaches an exceptionally satisfying level of clarity and immediacy. McIlwain sees the title, taken from the lyrical phrase "long light signaling the fall again," written by Beno t Pioulard for what became the title track, as a guiding device that reflects several meanings. "There's this sort of paranoia where you don't know what is real, it's an age of high anxiety and there are all these distractions," McIlwain explains. "It's like a fun house mirror situation." Following the long light is the only true way through, and he holds that metaphor to the album's recording, which also carried a cyclical nature akin to seasons. Like the start of fall, the album completes a period of cultivation; "Music making is a struggle and you have to have a ton of patience." Long Light is proof that what lies beyond the noise, at the end of the figurative tunnel, is worth all the work it's taken to get there. Across the collection, McIlwain identifies the core sonic element, a vocal cut or a simple beat sequence, from which to build everything else off. On the opener "Come And Go," he multiplies a vocal take from longtime collaborator Vilja Larjosto into a celestial choir, evoking their Sensorimotor standout "Just A Cloud." It's the bass hook on the single "Zero to Sixty," curving around the voice of Sarah Jaffe, whose pliable range and cool delivery provide the source for Lusine's unmistakable mapping. The chorus is Jaffe's ("cold-blooded") line repeated in step with melodic synth pulses and the buzzing deep bass. For the verse, McIlwain unlocks the loop and she completes the thought, giving the track a sense of tension and relief."I feel like I am dreaming / You make me feel like I am walking on a cloud / I don't ever want to feel the ground," sings Asy Saavedra (of Chaos Chaos) on "Dreaming." This time McIlwain keeps the phrase intact, making subtle tweaks to the timbre and texture as chimes, clinks, and snaps oscillate.The album balances vocal pop motifs with some of Lusine's strongest instrumental expressions, from ambient-minded foreshadowing ("Faceless," "Plateau," "Rafters") to hypnotic head-nodders like "Cut and Cover" and "Transonic." The latter jumps out as the rhythmic centerpiece; first McIlwain outlines the track's silhouette before filling in its details one layer at a time. Stuttering synth hums join the kick, then proliferate a step higher, harmonizing at the peak with sparkled bell sounds and a burst of feedback. "Long Light" has it all: Lusine's percussive mood-building, rendered with samples from drummer Trent Moorman, and a contortion of tender poetry, courtesy of friend Thomas Meluch, aka Beno t Pioulard (Morr Music, Kranky). "This track has a sort of melody that I haven't really messed with before," says McIlwain. "It's this very droney, mysterious thing, that I really liked, and focused on, and kind of counter balanced with a nasty wavetable patch. Tom just absolutely nailed the feel of the song."It is rare to arrive at a landmark work two decades into one's craft, but through repetition, refinement, and patience, Lusine extends a defining moment, an essential piece to his discography.