Lucy Liyou makes me cry and I like them very much for that. Their debut album, Welfare, was a kaleidoscopic soundscape jumping between moods and styles with elegance. Practice continues that journey, but in a way that feels more expansive and closer than ever at the same time. So much of what makes their music so affecting is the vulnerability woven throughout. Even though text-to-speech keeps it a distance, there’s no way to keep this music at an arm’s length. It will devour you.
Practice is such a soft word. Liyou’s gently whispered confessions on “September 5” are uncomfortable at first but as they play piano, lamenting lost moments and every day moments, it becomes a comforting shawl. Emptiness is replaced by a full cup, holding you close in the darkness. Pacing is everything on “September 5” and as it crawls ahead, it draws you deeper into Liyou’s world. It’s a stunning piece of music that pushes every button I didn’t even know I had.
Practice can also have edges; can also be difficult. Liyou’s use of text-to-speech acts as an accent or exclamation point. Their compositions – whether piano, electronics, or otherwise – in conjunction with hiss-laden every day field recordings are a world unto themselves; the mechanized voice another color in the dense palette. With “How to build an automaton,” Liyou’s sound world is opaque and watery, a viscous slurry of unconscious thought that feels like you’re hallucinating in a sensory-deprivation tank. Grief-stricken and weary for a world that is no longer listening, any tiny speck of light is a beacon to aim for. It’s the thinnest of threads to grab. When the just-slightly-slowed voice calls out “What could break me?” the only thing that seems right is ‘just about anything.’
That’s how I always end up with Lucy Liyou’s music: broken down, teary eyed, and deliriously appreciative. They put so much of themselves into their work that you can’t help but let yourself go and give space to all the darkest recesses of your mind. Practice is about forming those habits by giving in to things you try to avoid and holding them for a minute or two before sending them back to the ether. Embracing those moments will get you farther in the end and Practice is a journey through that dark quarter and, hopefully, back into someplace lighter.