Words by Sara Jayne Crow
“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”
As a music journalist of nearly 15 years, this quote oddly resonates with me: it’s absurd to want to use one creative form to interpret another. Prose is a nebulous conjecture as it relates to describing rhythm; nonfiction is spare fact, and poetry feebly swaps dressed-up, impotent rhyme for melody. The statement is especially appropriate when writing about the music of Jeff McIlwain (Lusine), a prolific Seattle-based musician whose output bears such depth and breadth that words can’t near approximation. Music theory can’t approximate. Smoke signals or cuneiform might serve better.
At club King King in Hollywood last March, Jeff effortlessly orchestrated a live set, laboring intently behind the subdued glow of his laptop screen. He made subtle adjustments, fingers deftly flitting among the buttons and knobs of his spare setup: a laptop running Ableton, a DSI Tetra, Evolution UC-33, and Novation MIDI controller. The speaker stacks radiated the warmth of his layered, painstaking sonic engineering. Jeff didn’t have an affect of ego or showmanship despite the worshipful crowd jostling for front-row stance. His unassuming nature, effortless control and modesty made live performance look easy.