Lukid Lonely at the Top
Maybe the most alluring aspect of Lukid's music is the aura of mystery that its nebulous genre mutations and destroyed source material fosters, the feeling that producer Luke Blair happened to stumble upon some tracks in a dusty, unmarked box in his grandmother's attic and figured he might as well arrange them together and call it his fourth album. Nothing sounds entirely finished or laboriously thought out, which only adds to Lonely at the Top's enigmatic nature; each tune rides its blown-out groove or plinking synth loop for however long before gradually fading into nothingness. Lukid's latest is a record full of oddball house and techno mantras woven together by delicate strands of melody and smothered with blankets of fuzz. It's not the most cohesive or substantial record that'll be released this year, but the ample curiosities and moments of beauty offered therein will undoubtedly keep curious listeners returning time and again in an attempt to unravel the secrets of its 12 tracks.
Another important facet of Lukid—though, this can be good and bad, depending on how it's examined—is his longtime relationship with Werk Discs label head and fellow producer Darren Cunningham (a.k.a. Actress). The reason being that both artists work in uncannily similar realms of electronic music, each of them heavily processing and deconstructing sounds in unique ways that nonetheless sound torn from the same book. Unfortunately, this can cast a shadow on parts of Lonely at the Top, as productions like the bulbous "Manchester" or the blasted "Southpaw"—while being excellent tunes—hit just a little too close to the territory of mangled techno covered by Splazsh and Hazyville some years back.
Lukid does himself one better when inching closer to his own zone, like on Lonely at the Top coda "Talk to Strangers." Though it's still easy to hear elements of Cunningham's pervasive style, Blair uses the track's lengthy runtime to patiently toy with melody, voice, rhythm, and atmosphere in more refreshing ways than, say, the warped instrumental hip-hop of "Laroche." "Bless My Heart" isn't Blair's all-time best, but its slo-mo beat, funky vibe, and clipped vocal samples come together to make a syrupy opener that sounds entirely his own. And when taken as a whole, Lonely at the Top is more of an inspired and singular work than its individual parts might let on. This is obviously music from an artist who understands the inner workings of house and techno and is trying to capture a wealth of challenging ideas within the LP format. Really, it's hard to fault Blair for coming off like an Actress doppelgänger. After all, he's been working with these kinds of tweaked beats for over five years now.
Let's say this: If Lukid's new album existed in a vacuum, it might be easier to consider it pretty damn-near perfect. It has style and character, it's both puzzling and gratifying, and above all, it's filled with solid tunes. But seeing as how Lonely at the Top is here in the real world, mucking around with the rest of the post-genre detritus, its twists and turns—despite their welcome strangeness—can sound just a bit too well-worn at times.
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