Lotic re-emerges from the depths on the glorious new album, ‘Water’
Lotic, the moniker of Berlin based American electronic music artist J’Kerian Morgan, is a term used to refer to any kind of moving water ecosystem. From rivers to brooks, the lotic ecosystem is any aquatic habitat that is naturally nuanced in the way that it supports life. It’s a meaning that seems to have struck her and in many ways informs how her latest album Water flows. Released on Houndstooth, Water follows 2018’s brilliantly jarring debut Power as Lotic’s sophomore effort. And like her name, it is richly textured and deeply complex. Lotic’s music often feels overlooked. Beginning in her 20’s after moving to Germany where she would become a resident at the iconic Janus club night, Lotic would release EP’s of mutant club formulations informed by the sounds of ballroom and Black queer identity. Her sound, abrasive and immediately indistinct, was essential to the early beginnings of the IDM sub-genre that has since become known as post-club, the deconstructed, industrial noise driven aesthetic more often affiliated with her peers such as Arca or SOPHIE. Power continued the abstraction of the club, but pushed it toward increasingly more experimental places with a fierce and at times unhinged energy. If Power was fuelled by the elements of the surface, Water is a record submerged in an entirely different kind of ferocity; more nuanced, far more mysterious. The album marks a distinct evolution in the sound and identity of Lotic, presenting nine fathomless tracks that break open the chasms to begin an exploration into a new phase of musicality. Changes, which sits at the heart of Water, is a spoken word poem from Julius Errol Flynn that in some ways, feels like a re-introduction to Lotic herself. Ending with the triumphantly fierce declaration of “It’s she! She’s the bitch you’re gagging for!”, there’s an echo of the sentiments one feels when experiencing Water; it’s as if we are hearing Lotic for the first time. And in a sense, we are.
Water is a much quieter record than anything that has come from Lotic before it, yet the music is still dynamically amorphous and transient in nature. Its influences are clear, yet Water feels anything but contrived. It’s an atmospheric feat; full of wobbling sub-bass and distorted walls of 808s that work together to make the album feel as if it plays out at the bottom of the Mariana Trench at all times. Perhaps more significantly than this submerged atmosphere is how Water sees Lotic’s voice put to use like never before. This greatly influences the direction of Water’s currents. Lotic’s melodic structures and harmonic modulations sound pulled from the depths of mermaid and sea enchantress lore; sung in long, extended waves of intonation that sound stunningly preternatural. Wet opens with an abysmal bass rumble, before floating into breathtaking vastness. Murky textures of sound suddenly come to life, creating a sort of subaquatic utopia through which Lotic’s voice resonates. It’s a gorgeously ethereal siren song, layers of melody and harmony that prove hypnotic. Emergency pulses with tidal dynamism against Lotic’s breathless, falsetto spell-casting while Come Unto Me sees Lotic play the role of temptress. She lets her voice pour unctuously over skeletal, metallic drum phrases and woodwind sounds that float like tendrils of kelp from the depths to the dimly lit surface. Oblivious sees her plumb the deepest of depths; all bass and distorted vocal layers while strange, ominous pads bounce in space like the lure of an angler fish. Always You is one of the most arresting on the album. Synths blaring like horns or conch shells erupt as harp chords twinkle like bubbles to the surface while a decaying industrial soundscape fluctuates beneath. The harp also appears on tracks Apart and A Plea. These both conjure images of a mermaid on the rocks with their use of the instrument, sparkling and juxtaposed with bass guitar on Apart and magically effervescent on A Plea. Water concludes with the near nine minute long Diamond. It’s a track overflowing with abysmal sensuality that builds itself from a current writhing in the depths to a gargantuan wave exploding as it meets the rocks on the surface at its climax.
The symbolism of water in the context of Black queer identity is impossible to overlook when considering this record. From the historical significance of the sea as the carrier of slave ships to the traditional folklore and mythology of entities such as Yemaya or Mami Wata, water is an element that carries with it a deep maternal felinity, but also an ever lurking sense of danger and mystery. Similarly, the mermaid has historically been a symbol of the abject feminine; wild and unnamable yet deeply enchanting and erotic. The idea of the mermaid as a creature caught between two worlds is one that has long resonated with the experience of queer and trans identity, and in many ways the creature has become a metaphor for queer desire itself. On Water, Lotic assumes the spirit of the siren and the elemental force of water itself to create some of the most gorgeously chasmic yet impossibly rich music of her career. For her, this is a new chapter in her artistry opened with a triumph of a record, likened only to the embrace of the ocean itself; languid, yet deadly.