LTO popped onto my radar with his excellent EP “No Pasa Nada” and returns with his first full album “Storybook” in similar experimental ambient electronica tones. It’s a lavish, understated and beautiful body of work that carries a lot of emotional gravitas with each track.
“Change” opens with a collage of street noises, low hums and a percussive tuned synth that glitches in and out of pace. Behind the main sounds a soft optimism is behind the chord structure and a nurturing of age as the innocent children play quietly behind the music. It’s seems a simple song on the surface but there’s so many layers to make it sound simple and that’s LTO’s strength. “Tape Loops” is far more downbeat and depressing with scraping muted clumps for a drumbeat and a chewed up tape tension on the various synths and keyboards. The main vocal is like an airy disembodied spoken word that floats separately to the actual song but combined, it is haunting. “Enchantment” keeps that eerie tape chew and adds vinyl clicks and ticks to a creepy piano and robotic voice. Think Nirvana’s “Something in the Way” channels through a depressed alien from the year 2300 and you’re there. Inspired and amazing. The whole eerie piano reaches its nadir moment with “Rise” where wailing electric guitars pine sympathetically behind the piano and industrial noises. It’s six and half minutes have each section keep building and building until a euphoric finale and it really pays off.
Piano is the mainstay of the album which is interesting considering just how electronic it is. The effects applied to the piano makes title track “Storybook” an emotional wreck as certain notes crackle and fade under the distressed sound and the guitars and organ synths hiding underneath. “When” pushes things towards the more cinematic side with thick synth strings pushing home a horror/thriller vibe – and actually most of the album feels like it could underscore a Silent Hill game. Here is where the tipping point moves from emotional back to creepy again and that continues with the chopped up riffs of “Partners” where the same simple piano riff is butchered over and over again in different ways. It’s such an effective use of sound as its harsh, brutal, pointed and melodic in its own weird way. I found the track utterly captivating and writing my own story to it in my head. “Moment” pushes faded brass and everyday noises into the mix with a space jazz horror track. It’s very low fi, very chilled, but also sounds like it’s taking place in a murders basement! It’s the darkness that leads up to “Careful” as the closer that makes it all the more emotional. The song feels like a track early Son Lux would have put together before he’d go nuts with drums. The demonic bass line, the sad melody, the space and minimal vocal lines processed beyond understanding – it all clicks together for an interesting finale to one the years most distinctive and unique albums.
LTO won’t be for everyone. He creates melodies and spends his time working out how to deconstruct them with various effects but he straddles the line between electronica and ambience perfectly. Out of all the producers releasing albums this year, I think this has to be my favourite.
Recommended Track : “Rise”