Jeff McIlwain, better known as Lusine, has historically been somewhat bipolar in his productions. Effortlessly oscillating between thumping, European-style techno made for dance floors and glitchy, experimental IDM (emphasis on the ‘I’- some of his early work is so maddeningly intricate that it’s been known to cause uncontrollable fits of algebra in listeners) made for after-parties and psych wards, with brief but frequent stopovers in the space between the two, Lusine’s split production personality has paid dividends for listeners for a long time. On new full-length The Waiting Room, Lusine spends his thirteenth release for venerable Ann Arbor-based Ghostly International occupying the overlapping portion of the Venn diagram he’s established throughout his long and distinguished career.
Opening track “Panoramic” kicks things off with a long, graduated swell, slowly accruing layers of peppy synth stabs and thick, punchy bass notes, gaining momentum until it hits terminal velocity as a mid-tempo synth clinic with slight chillwave-y undertones, one that wouldn’t sound entirely out of place on one of labelmate Com Truise’s albums. With the pace set at ‘slight departure’, “Get The Message” makes it clear that we’re not going to be spending the album in either of the aesthetic territories typically found on a Lusine release. Disaffected female vocals float over a frisky indie-pop track, infectious in nature and irrepressible in execution, an overt nod to catchiness and accessibility well played.
From that point forward, much of the album splits the difference between the bold precedent established in its first two tracks and the more established patterns prevalent on previous Lusine releases, particularly his more danceable side that’s been showcased in recent years. “On Telegraph” and “ February” flirt with funky house, “Without A Plan” is washy chillwave, “By This Sound” is synth-pop juxtaposing arena-sized production with understated vocals. Only on the warp-speed head-spinner “Stratus” does Lusine’s production take on the oblique, relentlessly challenging IDM glaze that was once his calling card, effectively jolting the listener out of the groovy dream-state created on the rest of the album- which is a pretty cool dynamic trick.
While The Waiting Room may come off as a trifle disjointed (not every day you get a track like “Stratus” and a track like “Get The Message” on the same album), in the context of Lusine’s total output it all makes sense. The inclusion of gentle indie-rock and shoegaze elements smooths out some of the jagged, experimental tendencies and softens the dance floor thunder just enough, rendering The Waiting Room less a compromise and more a happy medium.