Lapalux (real name Stuart Howard) is a British producer well-known for his lush soundscapes, unpredictable shifts in rhythm, and rich textures. He has released four albums under the Brainfeeder label, and has worked with artists such as Andreya Triana and Kerry Leatham.
In his 2013 single “Without You”, Lapalux manages to create an entire universe in under four minutes: a slow, seductive synth and wet snares are soon joined by down-pitched vocals – a favorite of almost every electronic producer from the last decade. New elements are always being introduced: bells, a steady beat that sounds like it’s generated by a wind-up toy that could stop working at any second (which could be a summation of how he borrows from glitch and glitch hop), a chipmunk-style voice. Lapalux tells stories much more than he creates radio-friendly singles, and the video, starring Natalia Tena, is an exploration of darkness and solitude.
Howard’s second album, ‘Lustmore’, was a lot more pronounced and ambitious – he adopted a more loose, jazzy approach while maintaining everything that worked from his first release. On ‘Puzzle’, he collaborated with one of the best voices in electronic music, Andreya Triana, her soulful inflections and mesmerizing presence making the song stand out even more, if the ambitious structure and a very stylish opening weren’t enough. By this time, Lapalux had already experimented with off-key sounds, and the beats felt like they were stolen from an underwater suite – thumping snares and resonating claps that drenched you and pulled you under with every beat. By the time Triana’s voice joined in, one was already feeling entranced, and midway, the song was really finding its groove and wisely sticking to it (‘if you find it, dwell on it for a while’ is a good motto for any artist, and the way he uses both repetition and freewheeling experimentation is just refreshing), adding saxophone improvisation and some minor embellishments to what already sounded like the new sound that could lead sailors to their doom. The video – also about doom in its own way, featuring an insecure young man being fascinated by a white sports car in the middle of the night – is a sobering depiction of addiction and unraveling life.
But perhaps his most ambitious work had arrived even earlier than ‘Puzzle’ and the ‘Lustmore’ album – in 2014 he released a ‘tryptich’, a trilogy in just 7 minutes, ‘Movement I, II & III’, which, 8 years later, is still our favorite track of his. Artists were really experimenting with longer runtimes and continuous mixes (Arca and FKA Twigs among them), but this was neither EP nor visual album. It was supposed to be a single, but it borrowed from the forms of classical music (a ‘movement’ is “a self-contained part of a musical composition or musical form”, and sometimes, “a performance of the complete work requires all the movements to be performed in succession”, says Wiki, almost shedding light on Howard’s syntax of this work.)
Ultimately, it’s all about cadence, rich motifs, rhythm and new forms in Lapalux’s “Movement”, perhaps one of the most stunning compositions of the last decade. The first part is his evolved sound, starting out almost “Puzzle”-like but announcing a real journey, a trippy descent into an underground cavern where the only companion is the voice saying “Open your minds, there’s still love to find/ Seconds or hours, I see you dance aside/ So, we dig deeper, all bound to search more“. Then, as if prodding the listener to not be overcome, but start the next part of the journey, part two shifts into a more ambient direction. Lush pads and subtle guitar notes root one in place, providing the stamina and anticipating an upcoming flight, whispering in their year. Part three is the winged journey itself, the return to light – a downtempo groove that might allow some distorted bass sounds to be the dark hands attempting to drag the listener back into the void, but otherwise ends up on a blissful high.
For fans of the “Movement” style, Lapalux released “Total Reality, Total Chaos (Parts I & II)” in 2020, which at times feels eerily similar to Aphex Twin or Plaid with the use of spoken-word samples, but is more like a 30-minute “Part 2” of his “Movement”: a colorful, thick bubble that you carry with you before realizing that it is quite capable of carrying you. We can’t really decide on a favorite part in this mix (although the one starting at 17:00 is heartachingly beautiful), because it’s just half an hour of a vast array of feelings all wrapped up and stacked on a shelf for you to choose from.
If at any time you want that bubble to burst, there is no better way than ending the dream by landing on the steady terrain provided by “Closure”, his collaboration with Szjerdene, which at 1:27 simply explodes into a distorted bass sonic delight, a proper goodbye if there ever was one (“It’s over, I’m older“).
To sum up, Lapalux’s sonic journey is like falling into the ocean, swimming towards a dark cavern, then discovering a tunnel, a pair of wings and a sunshine clearing. Taking flight, being reborn, landing in a safe place and waving goodbye. One of the few artists that earns that overused ‘trippy’ description, Lapalux is one to celebrate, and worthy of a lot more recognition and plays.
“I look at it like a synergy between human and machine and the blurring of the barriers between them. The idea that one can be reborn after death or somehow brought back to life in the future. I read into various theories on the way we perceive our consciousness and this inevitably has found its way into my music. The rapid advancements in understanding the mind and the closer we are getting to a kind of singularity is a major influence for me.” – Lapalux
Featured image is “UNDERWATER PAINTING ” Abstract coral reef ” (was made underwater)” by Olga Nikitina