The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Lucid Anarchy Skye Butchard , January 8th, 2024 08:56

The Berlin-based electronic artist puts texture and feeling first on her new record, where compositions bloom from nothing. Skye Butchard finds that you don’t have to think too hard to hear its beauty

It’s a misconception that experimental music has to be viewed academically to be appreciated. When artists get tagged with the ‘experimental’ label (see also: IDM), some listeners are put off by the highbrow packaging. While us weirdos might enjoy writing rambly philosophical pieces about the thematic background of a record. Others see it as homework. In reality, boundary-pushing music is some of the most instantly affecting and emotional music there is. Pyur’s third record Lucid Anarchy proves that.

The Berlin-based electronic artist Sophie Schnell makes music that puts feeling and texture first. Her compositions bloom from nothing. The full dynamic range is used. What at first sounds minimal and breathy becomes maximal and overwhelming. There are some traditional instruments heard – a human voice, or a few piano notes – but they melt into abstraction. Her music is clever and refined, with its detail-rich sound design and slow-motion melodicism, but it never feels studied. Instead, it’s the sound of something natural and inevitable spilling out.

Lucid Anarchy is her most emotion-forward offering so far, thanks to her clear and purposeful harmonic choices. Tracks like ‘Night / Sea’ and ‘Windings On a Charged Wave’ have hearty melodic hooks despite their looseness. Layers of skin-tickling percussion and digital manipulation are elegantly placed to emphasise and colour the core of these songs in new ways. She retains the brashness of past material, too. ‘Moving, Not Knowing’ is based around a squelchy two-note arpeggio that uses its roughness as a source of contrast for the beauty around it.

Pyur’s last record, Oratorio for the Underworld, was nebulous and haunting by comparison, more willing to hide its intentions behind a smokescreen of uncertain resolutions. Here, there’s an openness to her production. Though the title Lucid Anarchy is about finding comfort and meaning in uncertainty, you know you’re in a safe pair of hands.

Still, Schnell finds ways to shift expectations, like the closer, ‘Nectar’. We begin with a rare percussive focus, where rigid toms repeat in an upward climb. Three minutes in, they disappear. We’re dropped into a melancholic space, forced to adjust for a moment.

The lack of a tight climax on these songs might frustrate, given they build with such intensity. Admittedly, the record is most exciting in moments of agitation. Ambiguous conclusions on songs like ‘Ripples, Inner Outer’ can feel more underwhelming than reflective. Still, there is plenty of purpose in this more fluid approach.

Lucid Anarchy was made during a period of upheaval for its creator. Schnell found herself living between Berlin, the Jura mountains, and a small fishing village. The jumbled mix of experiences and locations inspired the vastness of this record. But you don’t have to hear the backstory. You can feel it.