Lusine Icl: Language Barrier

As Lusine (or Lusine Icl), Jeff McIlwain has established a well-deserved reputation as a beat sculptor extraordinaire but Language Barrier proves that his ‘ambient' side is just as exquisite. Characterizing it as such is a bit misleading, however, as the material isn't wholly free-floating but often grounded in rhythm structures—they're just not of the hard-hitting kind that give albums like Serial Hodgepodge such heft. The Hymen vet (McIlwain issued the full-length Iron City on the label in 2002 and contributed a 3-inch CD to the recent Travel Sickness box set) assembles Language Barrier's nine finely-detailed settings from gleaming tones, pitter-pattering beats, and an extensive library of (often voice-based) field recording elements.

The album in its entirety is superbly executed. In “A Day Apart,” voices murmur alongside the entrancing tinkle of Rhodes tones and softly percolating beats, with the collective mass subtly building in intensity throughout its eight-minute journey. In “Jetstream,” a dense mass of heavenly voices murmurs while tinkling glockenspiel patterns, shimmering electronics, and subtle bass accents flesh out the deep sound. Delicate plucks of acoustic and electric guitars flutter over a ticking base in the subtly propulsive “On the Line”; by contrast, “Without Standing” is a beatless reverie that hypnotically segues between vinyl-encrusted piano ripples and drifting tones so perfectly-realized, one wishes it could go one forever. There's not a hair out of place in this immaculate material, and the taste and control McIlwain brings to its design is, quite simply, masterful.

November 2007