UK producer Lapalux (real name Stuart Howard) continues his fruitful relationship with L.A. label Brainfeeder with his third full-length, the gloomy but often beautiful Ruinism. Throughout, Howard cements his reputation as a masterful soundscape artist, often using beats sparingly but without ever robbing his work of momentum or structure. It's a murky and melancholic affair, but it's never depressing, and when moments of lightness do occur, they're all the more poignant.
Early track "Data Demon (ft. GABI)" is a good example of this deftly navigated duality. An almost pastoral synth and woodwind interlude occurs early on, but it's barely given time to breathe before dissonant variations arrive, leading ultimately to a digital pummelling that makes good on the title's promise. Early single "Rotted Arp (ft. Louisahhh)" is another highlight, featuring a spoken-word intro in the vein of M83's early work with actress Kate Moran. It has the same menacing intensity, and when it all cracks open in a crescendo of darkly beautiful synths (and the first proper beat on the album), it easily becomes the moment to top. While nothing packs quite the same punch, plenty of quality remains, including a trio of more beat-oriented offerings towards the album's end that balance out the more ethereal first half.
Fans of textured, cinematic soundscapes and left-field hip-hop will find Ruinism the most satisfying, but Howard's style is distinct enough that adventurous electronic music fans in general should at least check it out; it's as polished and well-realized as any of his output thus far. (Brainfeeder)