Thursday, September 24, 2009

Be May Day - Luga (Autumn 2009)

Be May Day

Distant Noise Records.

SCQ Rating: 78%

Luga isn’t an artist who takes his craft lightly. As 2008 saw the electronic genre battle between retro pastiche and left-field self-consciousness, Sending Triangles was a breath of fresh air, reminding purists that electronica can be soulful instead of ironic or trendsetting. For all of that record’s sleek confidence, few would’ve guessed that Sending Triangles was actually Luga’s debut… not to mention Distant Noise’s flagship release. Indeed, Luga – also known as Lewis Broad-Ashman – provided the label a mission statement to revert laptop-based music to its humble yet transcendent elements… a notion that is deservedly Distant Noise’s birthright.

Arriving mere months after his first outing, Be May Day somehow feels years evolved, as if Luga snipped the wings off his debut’s airborne arrangements and taught them to stomp around. The result is an album still looking skyward but rooted in heavier percussion and darker melodies. This progression is captured amid the dual speeds of ‘Home’, as plodding beats steady a rapid-fire rhythm of keys, or in ‘Be Mine’s addictive loops and resonating atmospherics. Alongside these waves of haze are some unexpectedly creepy moments; the warped carousel segue in ‘Plonk’ and the tense undercurrents of ‘Yellow Lily’ - which resemble ominous Geogaddi-era intermissions - ensures this sophomore a more reclusive nature. Despite such playful trickery, Luga has allowed himself no refuge for lost ambience in these compositions. Even ‘Monitron’, which is as wide-eyed as anything from Sending Triangles, features crisper production and clearer sonic details. Be May Day showcases some notable new skills, sure, but the most obvious is certainly its use of organic (or painstakingly organic-sounding) instrumentation; namely, the surprising live drums which propel ‘Ploriad’ and the treated vocals which render ‘Understand Theory’ an album highlight.

Although Luga has added some grit to his electronic-meets-shoegaze style, Be May Day proves all the better for it, anchoring his melodies to head-nodding beats and, in the process, giving his music a palpable sense of humanity. If Sending Triangles was an ideal soundtrack for a head in the clouds, Be May Day is my choice for walking beneath them; an ideal soundtrack for late summer adventures.

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