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      Lusine On His New Album The Waiting Room

      April 24, 2013 8:15 PM

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      Jeff McIlwain, aka Lusine, has been around for a decade now, recording and releasing all manner of electronic music. A Texas native, he now makes his home in Seattle. Before that he studied 20th century electronic music and sound design for film and television at CalArts. While he's best known for his work under the Lusine moniker on Ghostly International, McIlwain has also worked with filmmakers David Gordon Green (Snow Angels) and Kevin Bray (Line Watch). This cinematic sound design background bleeds through into the Lusine project.

      The Waiting Room—the first Lusine album since 2009's A Certain Distance—is his strongest to date. Synths weave around each other in alternately spare and densely hypnotizing patterns. Pop and experimental forms find balance, which has been one of McIlwain's primary goals in recent years. As a sonic document, The Waiting Room is complete—its trajectory offering up many aural-induced experiences that demand quality speakers or headphones for full, sonic immersion.

      I had an opportunity to chat with McIlwain about The Waiting Room, and how he endeavored to let things go a little more in the recording studio.

      Thump: You've talked in the past about not pre-planning albums. Was that the case on The Waiting Room or did you have a more definite idea for the new record?
      Lusine: I think I had a general idea of tracks I wanted to jump on, but I didn't have an idea of how the album was going to be before I started. I have an idea what will work as an opener and closer, and what the arc will be, but only once I have a few tracks. It's kind of fluid.

      The new album sounds simultaneously produced and live—a bit looser in a way.
      It probably has something to do with what I've been listening to lately, and getting away from the overly-produced sound. Or at least letting things go a little more. I've been kind of getting into groups like Emeralds where it just seems like they're really messing with their hardware. Some tracks on the album are obviously more produced than others. But I got into the idea of using arpeggiators and multiple analogs together, letting things go and tweaking things as they go along. There are a lot of tracks like that on the album, like the opener “Panoramic.”

      There is an irregular, warbling quality to the track “Without a Plan.” It reminded me a bit of mid-'90s Chemical Brothers. As a result, the song is kind of a nod to the past but also incredibly current.
      There's probably something to that. I really loved their stuff early on, and I'm sure some of that seeps into my music. The area where I'd say you are right is the chorus where there are a lot shakers and a break-y sound to it.

      Jumping ahead to the album closer “February.” Did you know this was going to be the closing track when you recorded it? It sounds as if it encapsulates the sentiment of the entire album.
      After I finished it I thought, Yeah, this is definitely the last track. I liked leaving it at the end where it just feels like it could go on instead of end. It just felt right at the end of the album. I didn't want something that had total, final closure.

      You mentioned Emeralds earlier. What other musical influences may have pushed you in new directions?
      The more I've been messing with vocals, the more I like music that is transitional and not completely pop music or completely experimental. Bands like Röyksopp and Junior Boys, the way they put together their albums. I like that kind of thing where it doesn't' have to be a full-on song or an instrumental track but something in between. Then there's Dosh who makes live drum-inspired electronic music, which got me wanting to work with live drums a bit more. He also does a lot of arpeggiations, which I like. And lately I've liked this John Talabot record, which is a good album all the way through. And that last Field album. I wasn't really into The Field when I first heard him, but with the last album I really got into it. It's really driving. I like music I can run to. And he was working with a live bass player and live drums but it still sounds electronic.

      The arpeggiated synths on “Stratus” have a really hypnotic quality. The song starts off simple enough, but as the track progresses you keep layering sounds. How was it recording that song?
      It's one of those songs that sort of sounds live. I did the synths in one take and then edited them to work inside the structure of the song. I have a lot of monophonic synths and no poly-analogue synths, but I have this plug-in that sort of joins them all together so that you can trigger them all at the same time for arpeggiation. I started with that and built it up from there. You just play the chord with the piece of software and it triggers all the synths.

      Any tracks singled out for remixing?
      My buddy Bob, who goes by Hanssen, and then Jon Convex did a remix of “Another Tomorrow.” For “Lucky” I got remixes from Jeremy Greenspan from Junior Boys, Steve Hauschildt of Emeralds and then Marktin Enke, aka Lake People.

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