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Lotic - Water (Black LP)

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J’Kerian Morgan, the artist known as Lotic, says of her second album Water: “This is the record I always wanted to write. This feels like my arrival as an artist.”

The last decade has irrevocably shaped the arc of Morgan’s life. The liberatory impact she has had on experimental club music as Lotic (meaning, “Of, relating to, or living in flowing water”) has in turn folded back into her creative practice, revealing a more finely-realised and intriguing evolution with each subsequent iteration. A decade bookended by chapters in Texas, USA and Berlin, Germany, saw Lotic navigate personal hardship and upheaval while garnering acclaim for an expansive production style; unpredictably nestling searing knife’s-edge sound design next to pop music hooks, hypnotic vocal reverie and the lineage of Black club cultures.

From studying film and electronic music at the University of Texas at Austin, she released her darkly complex debut EP More Than Friends, in 2011. Upon her move to Berlin in 2012, Lotic’s freewheeling sound aesthetic quickly cut a swath through the city’s nightlife with resident DJ sets at Berghain and Chesters nightclubs. A series of well-received mixtapes followed and she soon attracted the attention of avant-garde iconoclast Björk, who stated, “Lotic is one of the fiercest performer DJs I have ever heard.” This led to collaborative work on remixes for the Icelandic artists’s Vulnicura album and an invitation to open her 2015 Berlin concert.

Lotic’s latest release, the bewitchingly intimate 2021 album Water, for Houndstooth, is a stunning revelation; a tender meditation on love’s losses and lifeforce, timelines, bloodlines and resilience. Arriving at the end of a period Morgan recalls as, “having to be adaptable, while being dragged through the trenches,” Water adds the haunting quality of siren song to a career already marked by its engaging emotionality.

To arrive at Water meant to become like water. Lotic dedicated two years to a deep, intentional process of surrendering to softness, welcoming impermanence, embracing intimate relationships with her environment and self. Yet, to embrace vulnerability is to welcome its totality. Water heals, and it harms. It can sharpen, scald or silently consume. Water is a conduit for human corruption, such as the wrenching cruelty of forced Middle Passage crossings, yet water remains a site of ritual and absolution, a source of constant renewal.

“Wet” is a feat of non-lyrical vocal expression, luxuriating in its own operatic romanticism. “Emergency” shifts gears with quickened drums, a pulsing rhythm and breathless insatiability, reinforced by the upper-register delivery of the plea, “Sound the sirens / My body's writhing / I need to see you / Feel you, taste you, reel you in.” “Come Unto Me” is the synchronous telling of a cherished partnership and a lament for its loss through time. It relishes in connectedness with the lyrics, “Seeing you fully hear you entirely / Need you to know i / Love you truly, deeply,” while foreshadowing the inevitable need to soon turn those sentiments towards herself. Its bittersweetness reflects in the unlikely union of sludgy, bodeful pads and tones and delicate, celestial chimes.

“Changes” is a spoken testimony to unequivocal Black queerness, and features the voice of Julius Errol Flynn. “Always You” is a slow, deliberate mantra, laid meditatively over an accelerated double-time tempo, professing, over and over, to forever choose the object of its desire. “Apart” addresses the sweet agony of separation, with skittering electronic pulses and plucking of harp strings gently guide Lotic’s angelic voice further upwards towards a heavenly ascent.

The album’s third begins with sown seeds of discord in “A Plea.” Thunderous single notes hum like drones, falling away into a racing, skipping heartbeat, while demanding with a hot whisper to know “Do you even see me? Do you even care? Do you even love me? Of this I'm unaware.” “Oblivious” emerges as a solo voice under a spotlight, but the scene soon reveals an expanse of unsteady, inhospitable terrain. A devastating dressing-down ensues with Lotic’s voice hovering with clarity and shifting glimpses of razor sharpness, as she addresses the protagonist with her scars and righteous indignation. The haunting, swooping, intuitive harmonies of “Diamond” unites and concludes the context and subtext of Water, with a fitting final metaphor and a soaring musical peak. Here the beauty and follies of the human condition, the intoxicating and excruciating nature of love, and the crushing realites of a life lived can indeed forge something even more exquisitely, artfully, uniquely beautiful than expected.