In response to an old debate, Leland Stanford commissioned a superstar English photographer to produce photographic evidence of whether, at any given moment in time, all four hooves of a horse left the ground. In 1878, Eadweard Muybridge produced a series of images now known as The Horse In Motion. He went on in the 1880’s to take tens of thousands of photos in various motion studies; how we see the world and experience our movement through it has been shifting rapidly ever since.
And yeah, for a second, the horse flies.
Lusine’s latest full-length ‘Sensorimotor’ is a study in motion and sound. Lusine’s beats have always been defined by their spaces, their gaps, and their unpredictable silences, but ‘Sensorimotor’ sees Jeff McIlwain diving deep into the experience of movement through sound, the march of time through sharp snaps and long elastic warps of emotion.
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From the get-go, opener “Canopy” sets a strong precedent for the sort of wordlessly coordinated natural movements that litter our worlds—chimes and synths sound just as natural as waves and stone, levee and tide, wing and wind, where one broad force cuts between the flits of adapting, wheeling pieces. The struggle between organic and mechanical units never really subsides, though it ebbs and flows between each track with incredible precision—with only three major releases in the last decade, you can rest assured that each move McIlwain makes is as vital as any other.
Most importantly, they’re never what you expect. Often it’s the organic elements—chimes, drums, bells—that pound with artificial rigidity, while synths twist and wind in and out of the song’s consciousness. “The Level” would be a wholly unremarkable track if it weren’t for the complete swap in the track’s sound palette—as stark as wood and steel, beaming neon and moonlight—that slices through the track in spite of its interminable motion. Some of the shorter vignettes like “Tropopause” seem to want to squirm their way out of the thump and trundle of the album and to somewhere completely beyond; but somehow, the music always returns to itself. Even the human element persisting in the sparse vocal features, battered and buoyed by electronic distortion, seems trapped in the lush machinery McIlwain builds—at the album’s most human moment, Benoît Pioulard rises to a pitch and asks, “What did you expect from me?” only to find his voice blasted into an arpeggiated, robotic, and wistful croon.
With such scrutiny in the study of motion, sometimes the tracks over stay their welcome, or seem not quite sure how to escape themselves, either fading into lackadaisical ends or dull fadeouts. But while the piece persists, it’s hard not to watch the music fall like drops of rain, washed out by Lusine’s long-garnered watercolor nostalgic pop sensibilities.
And faults aside, that’s really the beauty in electronic of any kind which ‘Sensorimotor’ mines so perfectly—given the endless march of time and the unending cusp of every dying moment strung out with mathematical and deliberate precision, given the beat, given the movement of it all, all you can hope to do sometimes is dance your way through it, whatever that means. One snapshot and you’re flying. The next and there you are again, and that’s just fine too.
‘Sensorimotor’ is out now via Ghostly International.