Lusine: The Waiting Room
Ghostly International

It's been three years since A Certain Distance, Jeff McIlwain's second Ghostly full-length under the Lusine name, appeared, so one expects that some degree of change will be evident on the new collection. Though the Seattle-based producer's Lusine sound has lost none of its trademark lustre and finesse, it has evolved insofar as it's grown more structurally song-oriented and more vocal-based, with five of the album's ten tracks featuring vocalists. In short, it would be perhaps more accurate to describe Lusine these days as more electronic pop than experimental electronic music, even if all of the sophistication of the sound design associated with the latter is still very much a part of the Lusine sound—a recording as satisfying for the body and mind, as it were.

In its sleek melding of synthetic elements and understated beat patterning, the scene-setting instrumental overture “Panoramic” offers an immediate reminder of McIlwain's production skills in his handling of dynamics, with the material undertaking a series of intensifying builds until it makes its final ascent. A cover of “Get the Message” by Electronic (Johnny Marr and Bernard Sumner) follows, with Sarah McIlwain deftly navigating the tune's funk rhythms in giving voice to the cryptic lyrics (“I don't know where to begin / Living in sin / How can you talk? / Look where you've been”).

“Lucky” rolls out a potent, mid-tempo dance groove that's got floor-filler written all over it, while the bright vocal exudes a delicious quality reminiscent of a prototypical Dani Siciliano-Herbert collaboration. As appealing, “February” closes the album with an ear-catching fusion of novel sound effects (tinkling synth accents, distorted voice fragments) and an almost trance-styled club groove. McIlwain's customary concentration on texture and attention to detail are present throughout, whether in the light-speed synthesizer blaze of “Stratus” or during an alluring vocal cut like “Without a Plan,” where the vocal glides atop a dense base of synths, beats, and vinyl crackle.

The Waiting Room's at its best when it unites alluring melodic content with infectious club grooves, as happens in the seductive skip of “First Call” and during “Another Tomorrow” when the delicate vocal utterance receives a powerful boost from a punchy dance pulse and hyperactive synthesizer patterns. If there's nothing on The Waiting Room quite as stunning as A Certain Distance's “Two Dots” (“Lucky” comes close), there's no denying the overall high quality of the music-making on offer.

January 2013