After a pair of albums that leaned more heavily on pop melodicism, Seattle-based electronic auteur Lusine edges gently back toward the cloudy fringe with Sensorimotor, his fourth full-length for Ghostly International. Jeff McIlwain's output as Lusine has been difficult to pigeonhole over the course of nearly two decades, veering from tuneful yet fractured electropop to shadowy textural experimentations and building his own little ecosystems along the way. Inspired in part by the title's literal meaning, Sensorimotor takes a binary approach, pairing the lushness of the senses with the functional actions of movement. In a sense, this has been a recurring theme for McIlwain's music over the years in the way that he toys with sensory aesthetics over an often minimalistic framework of rhythm. The album opens with "Canopy," a slow-building manipulation of chimes that dances celestially across the stereo field before devolving into a disorienting three-chord rhythmic pulse. Having introduced the tone, he switches gear to a more familiar style with "Ticking Hands," a pensive musing on apartness featuring vocals from his wife and frequent collaborator, Sarah McIlwain. This song, like the other guest-assisted vocal tracks, more resembles the fragmented EDM pop singles of latter-day Lusine releases like A Certain Distance and Waiting Room. While not McIlwain's most immediately accessible piece, the Benoît Pioulard-sung "Witness" deftly shape-shifts two-thirds of the way through, delivering a magnificently unnatural vocal arpeggiation whose artifice literally leaves you breathless. Of the instrumental tracks, the percolating synths of "The Level" are augmented by misty field recordings while the brief but entrancing "Chatter" feels like broken field recordings augmented by occasional synths. The growling ambient "Tropopause" feels like a sister track to the more gentle opener while the epic seven-minute closer, "The Lift," wields the most raw power and density of the bunch. With Sensorimotor, Lusine takes another evolutionary step forward, seeming strangely natural in his skin of manipulation.
by Timothy Monger