Someday Jeff McIlwain is going to make a perfect record. The Vladislav Delay comparisons are not far off: McIlwain is as competent a free-former as he is a slick beatmaker, and as Lusine (and earlier as Lusine icl and L’usine), he’s produced legitimate specimens of everything from Warp-inspired ambient techno to proper microhouse to lush loop manipulations. Few electronic artists manage such variety with uniformly good results. And by carrying themes and textures across his otherwise disparate tracks and/or sequencing his albums so their tracks self-compound, Lusine has shown that he’s capable of producing an engaging and eclectic full-length. He just, well, hasn’t done it yet.
Serial Hodgepodge is not perfect, but its ambition is admirable. As the name of the album implies, Lusine has an unabashedly short attention span here. Gorgeous processed vocals on “Ask You” (think Markus Popp’s So project) open the album with chilly pessimism, a current which carries throughout the album’s impeccable first third. Glassy synth and displaced melodies on “Slur” pick up where the Richard D. James Album left off, while the short but soaked drone “Drip” plays off a distant piano flutter we heard on Tim Hecker’s Radio Amor. In each of these tracks Lusine is remarkably frugal—he often forgoes percussion accents when they can be understood in the rhythm of his samples, sometimes even distracting us from the beat with perfectly concurrent melodies. “The Stop” benefits the most from his spare approach. It’s Akufen-style cut-up house but without actual cut-ups, those same processed vocals quickly squeezing out the scraps of earlier melodies before the drum loop degenerates into syncopated figures and squelch.
Lusine nails these first four tracks. The rest of Serial Hodgepodge is in permanent flux, however. The canned chill-out track “Everything Under The Sun” robs the album of nearly all its momentum. With warm wisps, bouncey-ball kicks, and enough pink noise to make for fine M-series microhouse, “Figment” comes close to restoring it, but Lusine curiously withholds the four-four downbeat, making for a suspenseful but ultimately excruciating listen. Ultimately, Serial Hodgepodge fails by the same token: Lusine has the talent to make good on his aspirations, but seems to refuse the extra effort that his sort of perfection demands.