A sometimes messy mix of styles – but when it works, it’s remarkable.
Chris Power 2012-10-18
Lukid (Luke Blair), like his label boss and sometime production partner Actress, doesn’t limit himself to one style. Instead he prefers to open up the cages and let techno, hip hop, bass and electro crawl all over each other. As methods go it can be messy, but it also throws up some interesting hybrids.
Lonely at the Top, Lukid’s fourth album, begins almost apologetically with what sounds like a pitched-down disco edit. The radically different tracks that follow, starting with the broken electro bleeps of Manchester, underline his dedication to disjunction. When he’s operating at the top of his game, this disjunction is to be found not only in the programming, but also in the DNA of the tracks themselves.
The single The Dog Can Swim takes the sort of delicate electronica melody that might have garnished something Four Tet-ish in the early 00s, slaps a helmet on its head, and sends it into a battlefield of stamping kicks and thrashing snares. Riquelme, the album’s highlight, clones the puritan minimalism of dub techno and, by injecting the slightest of shuffles into the beat, pushes it towards the abandon of classic New York house.
It’s in the more straightforward passages that Lonely at the Top loses its way. From listen to listen, the staggered chords and breathy layers of The Life of the Mind, or the delicate glockenspiel-like patterns of Snow Theme, are as likely to fade into the background as hold your attention. Southpaw’s outro glitters appealingly, but the body of the track is stolid Brainfeeder hip hop. These are well made tracks, but they lack distinctiveness.
The same can’t be said of Talk to Strangers, which first sounds reminiscent of The Chemical Brothers’ Surface to Air, then Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians, before building towards the eruption of an engorged bass tone. Its combination of vocal snippets and off-kilter snares reference elements of several styles (most prominently trance and house), without ever being particularly identifiable as one thing or another.
Lukid doesn’t command these in-between spaces nearly enough here, but when he does the effect is remarkable.