We all know we’re going to die. Anyone who denies the fact is living in a fantasy world, or the Sea Org.
The problem is we never know when it’s going to happen, and it’s this lack of information that leads us to spend the majority of our days not contemplating or anticipating our imminent death (terminal illnesses not withstanding). It’s also why when news that someone close to us has died arrives, we’re knocked for a loop that can induce a lot of introspection and soul searching. For The Luyas, news that a close friend had died as they started work on their latest record dictated the path their experimentalist pop would take. With a purpose and thematic through line, Animator is a record that makes sense of the senseless in abstract and sometimes jarring juxtapositions.
“Montuno”, the record’s opener, traps us in The Luyas’ hallucinatory world, where moments and minutes repeat themselves endlessly, replaying the defining moments of our lives (and their end). Over the course of its eight-plus minutes, it fluctuates back and forth melodically, repeating key lines so often you’ll wonder if there’s a scratch in the vinyl (until you remember this is digital). It’s not a sentimental or overly emotional record; in fact, for the most part, Animator sounds cool and detached from its origins. Snippets of lyrics pulled from the ether (like the refrain of “Fifty Fifty”: “Dreams die,”) are obvious clues, but there’s musical moments, too. On “Face”, it’s vocalist Jesse Stein’s vivid voice that “animates” the monotone and un-moving rhythms of the song.
Animator never gets too far out of The Luyas hands. They’ve controlled their unorthodox soundscapes by enclosing them in meticulously detailed arrangements and keeping things very tight together. There’s a sense of claustrophobia on some songs (“Your Name’s Mostly Water” is the one that comes to mind) where little room is left for the instruments to breathe. The record as a whole unfurls seamlessly from it’s opening overture to “Channeling”, the out-of-body-experience/offer that closes it.
Death happens when you least expect it, and to people you’d least expect to lose. If it’s any consolation for The Luyas’ loss, the experience has left us listeners with an unexpected treasure in Animator. In a way, it is a tribute to their friend, one that will continue to live on as long as people are around to hear it.
Animator is released today, October 16, 2012, on Paper Bag Records.
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