ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THE 405 (NOW DEFUNCT)
J’Kerian Morgan, known to many as Berlin-based producer Lotic, has lived a definitive roller coaster lifestyle the past three years. In 2015, they orchestrated two remixes for Björk’s Vulnicura, and even opened for the pop icon in Berlin. However, life was dealing Morgan a rough hand around the same time. The Houston-born artist found themselves homeless, dealing with heartbreak and something far more intrinsic—their gender identity. Not only was Morgan homeless in the literal sense, but they also were not at home within their own body.
With nowhere to go but up, Morgan over the course of two years, ascended from murky depths and out sprung their debut album Power, a fierce and turbulent project swimming with confrontation and self-realization.
As Power encounters the Berlin producer with unflinching honesty, Lotic’s candid testament grapples with discomfort while offering a compelling resolution—a reclamation of their gender identity which is isolated, pondered, deconstructed then reconstructed through 11 piercing tracks. Even with the faint struggle with self-acceptance, Lotic’s aptly titled debut runs heavy with confidence in the face of self-doubt.
“Brown skin, masculine frame, head's a target / This ni**a can't take it / Had to grow feminine, think I found it / This ni**a can't take it,” Lotic chants near the end of the album’s first single ‘Hunter.’ These words, brimming with stark imagery, serve as an appropriate preamble to Lotic’s statement of empowerment. With “Hunter” signifying that Lotic has decided to live as the person they truly are, the rest of Power unravels like a warm and tender embrace in spite of the seemingly cold and glitchy nature of the sounds they explore.
Opening with ‘Love and Light,’ listeners are tricked into a gorgeous and tender realm of art pop, reminiscent of SOPHIE’s melodic moments. As slow synth lines drip with high-pitched keys against an ominous synth bass and percussion, Lotic lays the tracks toward a roller coaster ride of emotion.
Alongside the sultry ‘Love and Light,’ the ghostly closing number ‘Solace’ bookends this experience with sweetness and timid optimism. However, everything in between Power teems with apprehension. The track “Nerve” features fierce incantations of “Bitch, you got nerve” hovering over nervous trap hi-hats and a robotic muddy hip-hop vibe. Against explosive post-industrial beats, the track ‘Bulletproof’ overflows with boldness and impassioned lyrics— “I’m still alive / so I’m gon thrive / I'm a bulletproof ni**a.”
Amidst a blitz of apocalyptic percussion, Lotic wields their unique ability as a producer by dancing between sonic fields of silence and roaring chaos with the album’s title track. Arguably the most stunning cut off the record, ‘Power’ lures the listener into celestial ambiance, but are then deafened by a flurry of metallic blast beats and glitchy fills while blips of synth percolate like acidic raindrops in between each percussive jolt.
As is the case for many experimental albums of its kind, Power erects a foreboding and dissonant facade. With the many mechanical screeches and skittering hi-hats— this record feels incredibly alien upon first listen. However, with a few yet impactful slower countermelodies, Power feels equally humane. In fact, there’s a heavy heart beneath these scratching synths and a beatific soul emanating from the cold swathes of industrialism. Once you adjust to the combustible curveballs Lotic throws, their use of space prevails and reveals a certain elegance that’s absolutely endearing.
Varying from beautiful to frightening, and alluring to disorienting, to say Power is a tumultuous listening experience is an understatement. Even without many lyrics expressing their anguish and self-discovery, Lotic’s debut is an album that conveys more than what words can offer. Against simply running through the emotions, the Berlin-based experimentalist confronts their pain with aggression, occasional doubt, and ultimately, prevailing resilience.
Reverting back to the Icelandic pop queen, the wise words of Bjork’s prevails when considering the dexterity of emotion Lotic has accomplished with their debut endeavor. “I find it so amazing when people tell me that electronic music has no soul. You can’t blame the computer. If there’s no soul in the music, it’s because nobody put it there.”
Lotic’s latest does a masterful job in emphasizing the euphoria and vigor that is possible for those toiling with similar doubts. Lotic confronts their seemingly collapsing world, sifts through the wreckage of their past selves, and realizes an identity that was always there but was never allowed until now. While Power conjures up one of the most hectic, impenetrable, and eclectic listening experiences of the year, it’s above all, a true rags to riches story, one that complexly captures a struggling artist on the verge of fulfilling immense potential.
THE 405 RATING: 8.5/10