I dislike the wist that comes with nostalgia but sometimes it’s necessary to be retrospective, to take the time to look back and see the shadow we’ve slowly been growing behind us on our path forwards. There’s two strands here in the case of Long Light: firstly that Jeff McIlwain has been releasing under the Lusine alias (or one of the siblings) since 1999; the second is that I’ve personally been following him since 2009. Now, I don’t know how old Jeff is but I’ve been listening to his music for damn near half my life at this point, and I find it now quite impossible to imagine my life without it, or indeed even a time it’s not been there.
This is important because it means that, in both of our cases, a considerable legacy has built up that can never be ignored in the context of any new additions to the existing history. As big of a fan of Jeff’s music as I am, there’s always going to be that comparison to youth, of x-thing against A Certain Distance, of y-thing against The Waiting Room, and so on. And for him as a musician, presumably the ever extending garden of tracks and records that each build upon the last. We are both products of a storied past.
To that end it becomes difficult to approach new music without this baggage and expectation, and I certainly have failed to disentangle myself with Long Light, though a large part of that is because this record seems to frame itself as the reflective artist musing on his position and material after a quarter of century doing so, and what it means to release music in this environment.
Immediate vocal-led opener “Come and Go” sees long time collaborator Vilja Larjosto reprise her role as Supreme Enchanter, the whole piece swirling in hypnotic loops that sucks us into its descending Techno spiral:
When you come and go when you come and go..
And I come you go and I come you go and…
Along with the idiosyncratic and cool basslines of heady “Zero to Sixty”, this one-two initial punch seems focused on fads and fandoms, the cyclic rise and fall of popularity mapped by the album release cycle and creative bursts that drives a perverse boom and bust with all but the most ardent and consistent long time listeners.
Indeed, the seminal track stuck right in the centre of the record, which also reprises the voice of Benoit Pioulard but this time glitched into staccato fragments amidst a shimmering web of synths, takes a critical look inwards: “Turn the mirror in, on a reflection of itself”. Repeating the approach of much of his previous work, difficult introspections are often challenged and set within bright, even jovial, Microhouse and Minimal Techno structures.
And why not, there’s no need to be mired or bogged down by these thoughts: though the likes of “Faceless” and “Plateau”, even perhaps penultimate “Rafters” in its fluted urgency and eerie looped train track sample, float through in various stages of sucked in thought, they’re sprinkled judiciously throughout. They critically form the nervous and self-conscious core, fearful of stagnation, of being lost in the mulch of the wider machine, replaced by newcomers.
For the most part (unlike perhaps its slightly darker immediate predecessor Sensorimotor) the pace is hot and fast, unwilling to languish. Standout “Transonic” slaps in meaty bass only to float on skidding synth arpeggiations, slowly blossoming into twinkling sensuousness as its tendrils reach out to break the rime coating over former listeners (or convert new ones).
Ultimately it culminates in the playful and zipping closer “Double Take”, tapping out shimmying steel polyrhythms in idiosyncratic Lusine excellence. Building momentum, textures and confidence, it unravels delicately but certainly, keeping within its lane but just like Jeff himself, always playing inside its scope, never standing still, feeling its borders and creeping beyond them to close on maybe slightly self-indulgent arpeggiations.
This isn’t an album of risk taking and style shifting, this is a record of clarity and refinement from someone who has a command of their craft and aesthetic and is taking the moment to reflect on the journey. It’s nothing we haven’t necessarily heard before, and it isn’t meant to be: this one is the over-the-shoulder lookback and honestly he’s earned it.