Release Notes

Label: Hymen
Released: June 2007
Artwork By: Stefan Alt
See Also: In the studio with Lusine
If You Like: Murcof, Arovane, Plaid, and Deru

It was 2007. I just moved to Chicago and got a new job with a quiet office overlooking the blue lake. I bought my very first pair of Grado headphones. I was entering the world of hi-fi. There was no Headphone Commute as you know it, but I would jot down a few notes on my favorite albums and share them along with my friends on my posts via journal. These were just short paragraphs capturing thoughts of my latest great finds [most of them exist in the archive]. I remember the day when I brought in the Language Barrier. An immaculate blue CD with a cover of something enigmatic, which only revealed itself to be a pool vacuum if you looked a bit closer. Oh, but the music, streaming through the open back cans, was crystal and clear, deep and pristine, lush, and a little bit resonant, just like the water portrayed in its blues. I remember asking my co-workers to listen to the opening of “Caught in the Middle” with its field-recording of an airport and reverberating chords. “It’s just like you’re there,” I would exclaim with a wide grin on my face, “it’s a whole other world! Can you hear it?” I can still hear it all, more than a decade later…

Back in 2007, I was already familiar with Jeff McIlwain‘s numerous projects as Lusine, L’Usine, and Lusine Icl [upon my meeting him in the later years I found out that “Icl” stood for “intercontinental”]. Prior to his Language Barrier, which was released by Hymen Records, my collection contained 12″ and EPs stretching back to the early 2000s, with McIlwain’s punchy electronica on Ghostly International [ my favorites were Serial Hodgepodge (2004), Emerald (2006), and Inside/Out EP (2005) ], Delikatessen Records [ see the Sustain 10″ (2002) as the very first entry in the catalog ], and, the above mentioned Hymen [ Slipthrough (2001), Iron City (2002) and Condensed, (2003) ]. But for his first full length for Hymen, McIlwain put out something very different – here was a pseudo ambient release, which explored the outer-edges of atmospheric electronica, rhythmic structures, and textured tones. It was remarkably polished and extremely “listenable” for hours on end…

Beautiful chord structures melt with excerpts from his huge archive of field recordings. Characteristic layers and treatments are mostly kept together by a metric structure accented with subtle rhythms…

I’m still wholly mesmerized with this melancholy serenade. The album holds up well after all these years, and it sounds absolutely flawless on my much-upgraded audiophile hi-fi. From its filtered passes of ambient minor chord sweeps to deep thumps of a beat-less bass [favorite track here is “Jetstream”], Language Barrier survives the test of time and stands out among the stacks of records like a rising monolith above the forest of forgotten voices. Listen to it now, and you’d think that it was made a month ago. I wonder, Jeff, if you feel the same about this beaut.

These days Lusine produces sonically-rich rhythmically-cerebral electro-pop for Ghostly International. See his 2019 4-track Retrace, featuring Jenn Champion for a taste of these soulful compositions. McIlwain has also recently collaborated with Wingo on the film score for Meredith Danluck‘s State Like Sleep. I’m looking forward to 10 years more!