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Lucy – Wordplay For Working Bees review

2011 is the thirtieth anniversary of electronic music – if we take the 1981 release of Cybotron’s “Alleys of Your Mind” as the starting point – so it is apt that this year sees a number of producers releasing benchmark albums. The format has plagued artists in this sphere for a long time, and always poses the same dilemmas –  should they focus on song-based styles in a bid to prove themselves as artists, or just deliver dancefloor tracks? If the answer is the latter, then why not just put out the music as EPs and if it is the former, then questions are always raised about why weren’t they making diverse music before. Thankfully, Lucy’s debut long player circumvents these issues, opting for an experimental approach, albeit one that is not entirely unfamiliar to fans of his Stroboscopic Artefacts label.

Lucy has always adopted a deeply cerebral outlook on running a label, music production and mastering, and this album indulges his experimental influences; many of the sounds used are composed of field recordings from Berlin’s parks and streets as well as from within the producer’s own apartment. Indeed the track titles – which on their own could easily be mistaken for the nonsensical words so loved by IDM producers, actually add up to a famous piece of Greek philosophy: “The art of being a slave is to rule one’s master”. The sum, therefore, is greater than the parts: a poignant clue that hints at the broad approach taken here.

The recoiling, menacing bassline and ominous feeling on “Thear” and the pounding yet eerie “Bein” sound like they could have formed part of the label’s digital-only Monad series,  while the dreamy breaks and half-heard vocals of “Eis” would also not have sounded out of place on the label’s spin-off. The rest of the album sees more experimental outcomes from the  production approach Lucy applied. Armed with a digital recorder, he recorded every noise and sound he encountered in his everyday life. The sound of water dripping is audible on “Mas”, while indistinct snippets of a conversation emerge on “Gas”. More importantly though is Lucy’s ability to reconstitute these elements and transform them into the spellbinding clicks and whirrs of “Tof”, the gloriously dreamy textures of “Ter” or the shifting metallic abstractions of “Lav”. Wordplay For Working Bees is steeped in techno’s culture of advancement and proves that after three decades, it is still possible to challenge convention.

Richard Brophy