Conor Mackey of the electronic music project Lynyn could be considered a musician’s musician. Mackey, who also plays in rock band Monobody and creates classical music compositions for chamber ensembles, has spent most of his life learning and working within multiple music scenes. But it wasn’t until recently that he felt comfortable enough to share his long private electronic music with the world. Curious listeners can hear Mackey’s creations on Lynyn’s debut album, “lexicon,” which will be released July 15.
Growing up in a musical family, Mackey learned to play the piano, bass, bassoon and clarinet from an early age. But it was a trip to a children’s museum in San Francisco at the age of 10 that first sparked her interest in electronic music.
A music room in the museum included a computer and a rudimentary digital audio station. Children could choose different curls and paint them in an arrangement. The experience, Mackey said, introduced him to the solo power of electronic music.
“I was immediately hooked on it because you could create something from scratch and have access to all these different sounds and create an entire piece of music yourself, which I didn’t even know existed” , recalls Mackey.
After his visit, Mackey’s parents bought him Sonic Foundry Acid, music production software. Later, Mackey shared the software with a friend and the two made beats together.
In high school, Mackey had begun to cultivate three different directions for music. There were his classical pursuits through youth orchestra and bassoon performance. He also picked up the guitar and started playing in local funk and jam bands. And then there was electronic music, cultivated from that long visit to the museum, and something he could nurture privately.
“I kind of had all these different sides, almost like different parts, of the musical personality,” Mackey said. “One of these three songs (has) followed me throughout my career.”
These tracks even followed him to college at Northern Illinois University where Mackey went to music school and earned a degree in composition.
Yet Mackey, who also plays in the band Monobody and creates compositions for chamber ensembles, has largely made a name for himself outside of the world of electronic music. This is partly due to the way electronic music fits into his creative world. “What made me want to be an artist,” Mackey said, I think was (a) general obsession with music and creating my own music. You know, taking the myriad of influences and parts of my personality and trying to distill them into a personal language and make a statement.
Electronic music, in some ways, represents a kind of absolute control over making your own music. While Mackey enjoys collaborating with others, it’s the genre’s singular ability to create vast, transformative sounds through the efforts of a single person that makes it so creatively compelling.
“It’s the ability to create something that’s entirely your own, isn’t it?” Mackey began. “The way I’ve been doing electronic music for so long is just me and (I have) complete control over every facet of songwriting, every step of the way.”
With the release of his debut album, “lexicon”, Mackey will finally have the chance to introduce this ever-present side of himself to a wider audience. Work on the record began in the winter of 2020. The tracks began with open experimentation. Mackey usually had a very vague idea of the kinds of things he wanted to try. He focused on improvisation and recorded everything he created. Later he would go back to these long improvised recordings and hear if anything could lead to a musical breakthrough in his inner ear.
“Does something sparkle?” Does this imply anything else? And then once I find this thing, it’s kind of like I’m off to the races,” Mackey said. “I guess that’s what my process looks like — lots of little discoveries. And also to try to put in place the conditions for this moment of discovery to occur. So when you establish those conditions, something happens, and then that thing implies something else. And then it’s over and over again. »
A track is ready when moments stop implying things. “I really liked the idea, especially when it comes to making electronic music, that the inspiration for any piece of music could come from anything,” Mackey added.
Electronic music fans will hear elements of many foundational contemporary genres, from IDM and ambient to break beats and drums and bass. The latter genre in particular was formative for Mackey, who said the first electronic music album he ever bought was Roni Size & Reprazent’s 1998 record “New Forms.” Yet knowing that these genre elements are present, “lexicon” is still sure to surprise and delight listeners. Anticipating a musical journey, Mackey instead guides the audience through an evocative journey brimming with nostalgia, intelligence and joy. “Lexicon” is undoubtedly one of the most exciting and innovative records of the year.
“I hope it still feels like anything I’ve ever done, which is to say it’s a moment in time and when it’s done it’s time to do the next thing and explore new territory,” Mackey said.
Britt Julious is a freelance critic.