Hungarian producer and DJ Jay Lumen might be one of the most recognizable names when it comes to heavy, muscular and unforgiving techno. However, despite having released several EPs and singles over the past ten years, Lost Tales is Lumens first proper album. It also marks a significant event for his own imprint Footwork, since it is the first full length LP released on the label. Lumen himself has stated that the album consists of tracks he has worked on for several years, yet never completely finished until now. One might suspect this while listening, as the LP consists of 11 distinctly different tracks that lack a cohesive theme binding them together. This is in no way a bad thing however; as each track has a unique identity and sound that make sure the album stays interesting throughout.
It becomes obvious from the onset that Jay Lumen has a thing for massive drops. The opener Pulsar is perhaps the most straightforward and least interesting of the tracks, yet it serves its purpose in establishing the drop driven approach found on most other cuts. One is easily reminded of Adam Beyer or Pfirter here, as it relies on a similar drum heavy sound, paired with the occasional vocal loop and dark synth lead. It builds slowly towards a big drop around the middle before slowly fading out at the end. Most tracks recycle this structure, yet they never really become predictable and things get even more interesting as the album progresses. Lumen constantly ads new twists to the soundscape, making most of the tracks, although very similar in structure, stand on their own. On lost tales he plays around with industrial noises, which give the otherwise deep and comparatively minimal track a raw and intriguing ambience. On Passion 303 he ads subtle acid howls to the mix (obviously), without making it distinctly acid. He pulls a similar trick on Fallen angel, one of the more melodic outings on the album, where he combines it with what sounds like a glockenspiel.
There are also tracks that take a smoother and tranquil approach. Final track Outer space diverts from the formula the most and offers a soothing and surprising end to the album. On I Am Lumen experiments heavily with atmosphere, adding sounds of winds, rain, female voices and several different synths to the mix. One synth in particular reminds profoundly of Vangelis Blade Runner soundtrack, which contributes substantially to the mood of the track. It is highly engrossing and the most exiting diversion from the other cuts. Azure also lowers the tempo and intensity somewhat in favor of a more melodic approach. Several synths are intertwined as the track progresses and it slowly evolves from a relatively modest techno banger into a graceful and warm soundscape. It is a real standout on the album, due to its relative complexity and unpredictability as well as its beautiful textures.
The main standout is also one of the heavier techno bangers. Old Machines relies on a very deep drum and a repetitive synth lead. It is filled with crunchy snares, sharp claps and random noises, all utilized in highly unpredictable patterns. The drop in the middle of the track is crushing and its explosive force is built with layers upon layers of drums and sounds. It is a true monster that would wreak havoc on any dance floor.
While the techno championed by Lumen and his peers does occasionally feel as if it has painted itself into a corner, the Lost tales LP shows several ways for it to break free from its restrains and progress in interesting directions. Lumen succeeds in showing the possibilities of the style by experimenting with the soundscape and he also offers atmosphere and depth in unpredictable and exciting ways. In the end, Jay Lumen has produced a well-rounded album that excels at showcasing his ingenuity.
Andy Raynor NH