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Ellen Allien – LISm

on March 26, 2013, 12:01am

An album without track breaks forces the listener to stay submerged in a continuous dream. By presenting LISm as a single piece in lieu of a segmented LP, German producer Ellen Allien brews a steady trance that alienates and comforts in turn. The follow-up to 2010’s Dust, LISm‘s a chilly one; as Allien said in a recent interview with Société Perrier, “you can feel the winter of Berlin in it.”

LISm sees Allien assuming the role of composer rather than DJ. The piece is a collage of music created for the dance performance Drama Per Musica, which explored a damaged counterculture through the visual metaphor of a shipwreck. Unlike Allien’s previous work, LISm was born out of physical experimentation. Allien recorded strings and hand percussion for the music’s base layer, only weaving in digital elements after the organic ones had been mapped.

While in most ways LISm breaks from Allien’s back catalog, it also directly references it. The opening minutes sample the same loop that flutters throughout Dust‘s “Should We Go Home”, while other echoes drift in and out of focus. Hearing these elements repurposed toward a more meditative end draws out the saddest, starkest parts of Allien’s minimal techno, but LISm doesn’t just appeal for its referentiality. The record holds its own as an experimental ambient piece, a slow walk in a German dusk. Language drips in through lonely blips, while spindly beats cut through oozing drones. The piece stretches the air tight in anxious movements, then blasts apart its own suspense with icy cataclysms.

While it will likely stand as a detour in her career, not a new branch, LISm complements Allien’s work in elegant and surprising ways. Those hungry for the more immediate release of her techno might find parts of the album tedious, but LISm‘s long-form arc rewards a patient listener.

Essential Tracks: N/A

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