Review Summary: Ellen Allien has composed a coherent and extremely intriguing journey through many musical styles and moments, creating something truly original while doing so.
If there is one thing to be said about Ellen Allien, it would be that she can be considered an accomplished artist. Besides having authored and produced a varied set of albums in the broad “electronic” genre, she owns the BPitch Control label, hereby launching the careers of many other Berlin-based artists, and even runs a fashion line.
But see, every Allien album is just what it is: an album, but without a real connection between subsequent releases. Sure, some typical “Allien-esque” features always re-appear: she has always shown to have a knack for combining her rather mechanical electronic beats with, for lack of a better word, poppyness. Sadly enough, each of her previous albums had some great tracks to offer but were not able to sustain the same quality during the course of the whole listen. Is it because Allien lacks the required focus? Could this also be the reason why Allien has always been somewhat reluctant in truly embracing a certain style or genre? Indeed, by always changing direction one can try to obscure the fact that they haven’t really much to say about, well, anything. In this context it is also interesting to note that Orchestra of Bubbles
, the album which is widely considered to be her best, is in fact a collaboration (with Apparat
). So maybe Allien feels it is time to prove that she has
got the skills to create a consistent and innovative album on her own?
Fact is that with LISm
, Allien appears to make a U-turn in terms of style. The album consists of just one 45-minute-long track, being more of a suite, and on it she moves away from the short, catchy, danceable tracks she has always been making in the past. Just like Krieg und Frieden
, the latest outing of the aforementioned Apparat, LISm
wasn’t originally composed as an album but as the soundtrack to a contemporary dance piece. In style and atmosphere, LISm
can be seen as a DJ mix trying to fuse minimal techno with ambient soundscapes, noise and what not. LISm
is all about losing yourself in the constant stream of sounds and moods. It is never clear what direction the composition will take in the following moments, but every twist and turn in its flow feels natural. From the initial random noises and classical instrumentation the piece evolves into electronic noise and after the 19 minute mark even jazz.
Of course, when an album is created by someone as experienced as Ellen Allien, nods to previous releases are to be expected. Fans are not entirely alienated (pun not intended) by the piece since over the course of LISm
typical Allien things appear. In this respect, LISm
could be considered as a successor to her previous "minimal" album Sool
: of course there is the extensive (repetitive) use of her vocal samples and after 27 minutes we are greeted by the first real beat in the piece, which could have been on any of her previous albums. This is also the way the album ends: drones and sporadic glitchy beats slowly transform into a brisk and steady vintage-Allien techno finale. This combination of unrelated elements in the mix might sound strange on paper and could suggest that Allien just wanted to make dance music, but dropped in some “arty” stuff to achieve more artistic credibility. Luckily, this is not the case: as mentioned before, LISm
can be viewed as a conventional DJ mix of unconventional parts. The reason why all the parts are there is just because they work well together.
Regardless of what the motivation was to create and release it, LISm
is yet again a demonstration of the mere technical skills of its creator but it also shows that Ellen Allien just loves to make music of different styles and genres. With LISm
, she composed a coherent and extremely intriguing journey through many musical styles and moments, creating something truly original while doing so.