Jeff McIlwain (formally known as Lusine) could easily be classified as your average electronica/techno artist. I say this because after listening to Serial Hodgepodge
it seems like McIlwain simply borrows ideas from other electronica duos rather then creating his own unique style. First off there are many songs on the album that have some crisp, funky beats over calm keyboard melodies. These tracks are usually quite lengthy clocking in at around five to six minutes or so. However Lusine wants to make things interesting so once in a while he will throw in a brief ambient track to slow things down.
Does this formula sound familiar" Sure it does. In McIlwain’s defense many other electronica duos/artists do this same sort of thing. Boards of Canada, Casino Versus Japan, and Bola all come to mind. So what’s the big problem with Serial Hodgepodge
" To be honest there are multiple reasons why Serial Hodgepodge
is a lackluster album so I’ll point out the minor problems little by little. The first thing that I noticed when listening to the album is that it very, very repetitive. McIlwain will throw in a slow yet throbbing beat and add various keyboard effects as the song progresses. The music has a deep and sublime feel, gloomy textures of string arrangements and keyboards are shown throughout the course of each song. The only problem is that McIlwain uses this same exact formula throughout most of these songs. Both Slur
and Make It Easy
show nearly no differences and its even hard for me to identify which song is which. These two tracks feature quick paced, booming beats over subtle keyboard harmonies and gentle, soothing female vocals. I must admit the music has a very relaxing and spiritual feel to it but McIlwlain overuses one idea the whole way through. The Stop
is another track that suffers from boring monotony, with another crisp beat over clanging background noises.
Now we can move on to McIlwains ambient and soothing pieces. These songs have a much more depressing and melancholy tone focusing more on song progression rather then holy keyboard tones. The albums opener, Ask You
starts off with soft female vocals “oohhing” into the microphone. After a few minutes some vibrating effects along with other illusive keyboard dynamics make their way into the music. Once the keyboard dynamics make their way into play the song turns into a real gem and it keeps it’s cool and majestic feel. Every other ambient song is much darker and drearier, they almost sound like something that would belong on one of Brian Eno’s ambient albums. Drip
, Auto Pilot
, and Payne’s Gray
all feature some kind of nature-esque effect weather it is rain falling, a heavy breeze, or leaves falling from a tree. If you close your eyes these tracks will probably put some sort of image in your head, and I suppose that’s a good thing but there is a catch. McIlwain shoves two of these songs towards the end of the album and while listening to them almost back to back there aren’t many elements that separate each of these ambient tracks from one another. I realize that most ambient/electronica pieces should sound similar but both songs share the same type of progression and are nearly inseparable. Not to mention that they are oddly lumped together between quick paced, techno pump up anthems.
The strangest and possibly the most annoying part about Serial Hodgepodge
is the mixture of ambient and techno songs. There are seven funk/techno songs featured on the album and just four lo-key or ambient tracks. If you want to put this album on and get yo’ groove on you’ll have to deal with the annoyance of the soothing tracks rather then the upbeat ones. Lets say you want some peaceful electronica tunes, sadly Serial Hodgepodge
won’t really do because most of these songs are upbeat and mildly groovy. In result this record won’t really pass as a good dance/techno album and it certaintly isn’t an ambient/soothing electronica record. It’s just an odd combination of the two.
If Mr. McIlwain has a strength it is creating some lush keyboard melodies and deep, majestic beats. After listening to Serial Hodgepodge
for the first time it is actually a really refreshing and glorious listen that features some cool dance-esque songs. The problem is that almost every song follows the same formula and has the same type of sound weather it is his funky break-beat or ambient type of songs. Serial Hodgepodge
is a slick, polished album but after a listen or two you will find yourself taking a routine nap towards the mid-section of the album because McIlwain simply ran out of ideas.