Apple Music tells me that Lucy & Aaron is a trance album. That’s wrong. There isn’t a single speck of trance here; no TR-909s or danceable BPMs or even any dreamy synths. Lucy & Aaron is unnerving, most successfully because it doesn’t seem to be trying to scare. The backwards vocals and heavy noise seem to just be, reinforced by that kooky and cute title: Lucy & Aaron.
The Lucy here is Lucrecia Dalt, with the Aaron being Dilloway, formerly of Wolf Eyes. Dalt has been making inscrutable electroacoustic music for a while now, exploring the timbre of her own voice in ASMR-like works of spoken word, while Dilloway, since his departure from Wolf Eyes, is currently devoted to a sample-based approach to conjured industrial landscapes. It’s more oblique than the abject horror that his former band traded in, but no less upsetting. Dilloway’s greatest strength is his ability to burrow deep into despair, conjuring the feeling without needing any narrative to build to that pain.
Where the two meet in the middle on this collaborative record is more or less what you’d expect: Dalt’s whispers over Dilloway’s instrumentals. The whole thing can sound like your friend telling you a secret in one ear while a ride at a carnival breaks down in the other. Most samples are completely divorced from their source, alienating the listener from the creation of the music they’re listening to. The pair prey on our fears of the unknown, like on “Bordéanola,” full of aquatic bubbling and an insistent metallic thump, and some Twin Peaks Red Room speak. Similarly, “Both Blue Moons” begins with brief horns that are immediately cut off in favor of dark ambient tones and some mysterious squeaking. Words ultimately fail to describe what relies so heavily on texture and mood.
The biggest left turn here, though, is the “The Blob,” which flirts with percussion and melody, as a sampled drum pattern and organ accompany Dilloway’s sung vocals, resulting in something groovy and quite palatable. Leading into the final third of the record, the song signals a shift, as the shifting tapes and glitches suddenly arrive full of color. It makes sense that the duo namecheck Chico Buarque and Jefferson Airplane when discussing this album. They filter that kind of psychedelic and baroque color through their dark lenses. On “Tense Cuts,” Dalt becomes muffled and true to the name, cut off, as if she just can’t get the words out.
And yet, for how very much Not Trance Lucy & Aaron is, there is something nonetheless hypnotizing about it. Both Dalt and Dilloway have an uncanny ability to entertain, even with such esoteric sounds. This record, which runs as a seamless piece with no edges, stops, or starts, is no different. When she begins singing on “Ojazo,” the sour digital notes that keep descending over and over again begin to twist and turn, going flat and sharp and threatening to overpower Dalt. But she’s far too enigmatic of a performer for that to happen. Sometimes Lucy & Aaron sounds like two artists jostling for control. Much of its pleasures (if that word even applies to noise) comes from the moments when one appears to win out over the other, only for the whole song to sink back into a swamp of electroacoustic sound.