As the last few sparkles of the beatific electronic modulations bubble and fizz out from Cantile of Creatures, the artist known as Lucy leaves us pondering; what’s next? Those of us expecting yet another foray into the beat-orientated world of the German Techno tradition are left without a rudder, our compass wildly gyrating in a murky magnetic field as Lucy defies all expectations on his latest album Self Mythology. In this, his third LP as Lucy the Italian-German Luca Mortellaro wonders out of the club, and into the unknown, on what appears to be some new path of discovery into the chanted exoticism of a future world as dictated by the artist’s personal idealised musical history. Self Mythology poses the question: How do we move further into music without forgetting where we came from? Once we’ve played with the gamelan orchestras of Indonesia; chanted with monks on the Himalayas; indulged in the rhythms south of the Sudan; and sampled the sound of an extinct cricket in the heart of the Amazon, there’s nothing left to chart in music. At the same time however we shouldn’t negate or forget the history of this music either, and perhaps even through our shared history we can discover a new futuristic music.
What Lucy has created on Self Mythology is a synthetic ambience that balances a forward thinking electronic approach with the various, seemingly contrasting traditions of music, juxtaposing the exoticism of the past with the sound of the future. The beating of a hollow drum, a repetitive chant, or the sound of striking two sticks together – these things are all familiar, but Lucy also counterpoints these library-music references with the prominent sound of a machine, an alien intruder forming a significant part of this new musical landscape. We might at times be able to express ourselves through dancing around the percussive elements of ritualistic rhythms, but as whole this is not their function. Their role, like everything else on this album, is in the way they add to the general texture of the compositions, creating music, bounding with life, and more importantly atmosphere. Many of these textural devices take on the appearance of music from an exotic past when a pitch modulating tabla or two marimbas playing a simple counterpoint was a new and undiscovered music from a foreign, and often unfamiliar, culture. Today however these devices are commonplace and their cultural heritage is our shared imagined or real cultural heritage, with the borders left between them eradicated by our digital age. There’s a suspicion that the origins of the music might be a false representation in virtual reality of an exotic location as imagined by a collective memory, but these suspicions are put the rest in the role they play in the greater context. A song like A millennia old adversary might be playing in the timbres of a pan flute, hand percussion and vocal chanting, but these various elements are completely stripped of their cultural value, transposed into the world of avant garde electronica in which they now exist as a complete and wholly original media devoid of any differences. Nothing quite like this has come before it, and yet it exists as the result of a combined musical history, so although novel, it’s still a collage of the familiar, rediscovered in this new electronically manipulated aesthetic.
Much of what Lucy achieves in Self Mythology is through the abstraction of the familiar into the world of the synthetic. Pitched percussion becomes percussive pitches on She wolf Night Morning; the echo of a hollow drum mutates into a sequenced machine on A selfless act; and on Dissonance Emancipation the sound of an acoustic tabla or djembe is programmed within the strict quantised world of the computer. This is not some cultural appropriation, but the formation of an entirely unique culture and Lucy’s self-mythology speaks of a universal mythology, where the past of another becomes our own. Like the Le Sape’s penchant for European fashion in the Congo, or the Dutch’s interpretation of Chinese porcelain, Lucy eradicates the borders between various cultures in music, negating the very idea of the myth of cultural differences, where they all filter into one singular shared history, through the artistic identity of a singular artist. What is Techno if it’s not just the extension of our history with percussion and ritual, and what is ambience if it’s not merely an artistic expression of our natural environment? These myths we’ve created for ourselves around these various aspects of music, which draw barriers where there ought not to be any, is moot today, and through Lucy’s Self Mythology we experience a world where they all exist in one place or time, completely dependent of each other.
This is not to suggest Lucy has made some indelible impact on this music through his personal experiences, but rather more accurately it’s just an extension and the most modern interpretation of a tradition of electronic music pioneers that extend back to Schaeffer, worms it’s way through Eno, Toop and even the Orb, to arrive at Lucy today. The significance in this music does not necessarily lie in the style or voice of the music, but rather in the artist from which it stems. For an artist like Lucy to move into these waters is perhaps not so much of a surprise given his previous work, but for him to be so committed to this sonic aesthetic through the course of an entire album definitely suggests that a shift in musical attitudes is in the air – one the perhaps sees us move further away from dance floor trends. Lucy has never sounded like this before, and this is significant because it will inevitably stand as a statement not only in his music, but probably insinuates something broader for the avant garde electronica to come.