Ellen Allien: LISm
LISm is not Ellen Allien in beatmaker mode; rather, the recording is a single-track, forty-five-minute soundtrack the BPitch Control pilot composed for choreographer Alexandre Roccoli's and dancer Sevérine Rième's dance work Drama per Musica. As such it's light years removed from the clubby material one immediately associates with Allien, even if she's explored other styles (2008's minimal project Sool comes to mind) over the course of her career. In one sense, LISm's mutating form mirrors a DJ set in that numerous episodes of contrasting character occur over the course of the piece. The performance was presented on March 7th 2011 at the Pompidou Centre in Paris, after which Allien reworked the piece into the recorded version now available.
Following an opening of flute flurries, the piece undergoes multiple twists and turns, some more interesting and memorable than others. LISm unfolds as a connecting series of scenes rather than as a formal work featuring recurring motifs and themes. A wide range of instruments is used (electronic, acoustic, and orchestral), and moods of varying colour also surface. At one point, accompanied by electric guitar shadings and a simple drum beat, Allien intones the word “falling” repeatedly. Experimental electro-acoustic passages appear, as does a quasi-jazz interlude featuring cymbals, clarinet, and muted trumpets. A piano-based episode segues into one featuring synthesizers and Allien's voice (“dreaming of you”) until, unexpectedly, a techno groove surfaces twenty-eight minutes into the work to add some welcome animation to the proceedings (at the forty-minute mark, a laid-back funk beat also emerges to point the piece home).
One expects that LISm would be more captivating if Allien's part were presented along with the dance performance (whether live or on DVD). Regardless, the prototypical Allien fan should know upfront that LISm is decidedly not the sound of Allien operating in her most-established mode but as soundtrack composer. Though LISm is certainly an interesting enough departure from her normal style, one can't help but suspect that years from now it'll be looked upon as a footnote in her career rather than as a central moment.