One would think that at the end of the day, a good rule of thumb when considering a piece of music is to essentially let the music itself do the talking. However, after browsing through a few articles about what LISm was intended to be—an artistic departure, music for a dance production, etc.—there seems to be little the music has to say on its own. LISm, by normally eclectic composer/DJ Ellen Allien, is comprised of a single track that runs forty-five minutes long. Sounds different, right? But there are few moments on the record, even upon repeated listens, that match the ambitious nature the piece suggests.
Moving through several vaguely connected sections in its duration, the tone is measurably distant and longing throughout, and though such a theme might seem ripe for musical engagement, nothing here reaches out to grab the heart strings too tightly. Perhaps it is making light of things, but one would guess the yearning intonation of “falling” that occupies several minutes early on in the track—backed with an almost too-simple-for-its-own-good guitar loop—would ideally lead to an eventual deepening of mood, as in, that which was “falling” has now “fallen.” No such luck, though, as it is not for several minutes afterward that there is any considerable change that would suggest an emotional conclusion.
The problem with LISm is somewhat two-fold: The different parts of the composition seem too stitched together in an un-affecting manner, and many of the parts themselves are not so interesting as to promote any real sense of immersion. Take for example the passage just beyond the “falling” section. It is a five-minute detour into a landscape of buzzes and bleeps that feels too quirky in its placement within the composition. It is rhythmic, in a way, but inevitably succeeded by a more interesting, though shorter, rhythmic interlude. The effect is jarring.
To be certain, there is a decent selection of interesting moments in these forty-five minutes of music, but many of them are far too short and lack the breathing room many of the less interesting sections are afforded. And worse still, the sections that do provoke an immersion, such as the straight-up electronic grooves that inhabit the last several minutes of the piece, aren’t meaningfully tied to anything else and bear a certain sense of isolation that elicits an uninspired listening experience. In a sense, it becomes a running list of sections that merely follow one another, rather than intertwine.
Though the benefit of a doubt can be given to pieces of music that are supposed to be linked to one another in an abstract way, as a contiguous piece, LISm leaves the listener regrettably hollow. Repeated listens differ very little from the reality of what the album is upon first listen, which does not make much of a case for delving deeper to possibly find a richer, more affecting meaning.