‘Lontalius’ is a genus of butterfly in the family Lycaenidae. Lontalius chose his name well.
I’ll Forget 17 would be a fitting backing track to the evanescent life of a butterfly. The album’s nu-stridency, its soft-pop aesthetic and sonic-scape resemble the light-winged insect.
Fragile pop-rock structures stand like a translucent cocoon; ghostly cadences hover and spin like a super-mortal bug-bird; and melancholia – sadness – reminds us, butterflies and humans alike, of our impermanence. Eddie Johnston’s sound and art is this way, because he is a cerebral youth submerged in the wide, undulating network that is the internet. Swimming through pixels, memes, drives and data, Lontalius has beautifully captured the ups and downs of digi-life for an in-the-midst-of-change teenager.
Lontalius’ sound is not dissimilar from the alt-mix pop produced by fellow New Zealander, Lorde, or Australian Troye Sivan. In the same way that these guys produce a kind of genreless, intersectional pop that pastiches nu-wave RnB, grayscale pop-rock, 00s indie-anything – with marvellous results – Lontalius has produced an album that is The Beatles cum Frank Ocean with a splash of Ludovico Einaudi.
In less obscure words, his music is full of wistful and wandering lyricism, watery piano-guitar exchanges and neatly chopped 808s. Very often, this (rather common) combination can result in an insipid, stunted music fit only for a mirrorless elevator. However, Lontalius’ album is good, when understood as an apt and self-reflective art piece about wrongs and (inter)webs and (cyber)worlds.
One of the highlights of the album is Kick In The Head. A rich bundle of thin synths, casio keyboard whinings and guitar riffage hold Johnston’s voice as he pleads, “Stand for us or run from us”. The music is inflected with thoughtful adjustments in texture, volume and frequency, to create a truly emotive soundscape. This ability, to weave pure pathos into his music, is evidenced also in Selfless. The song has an intro-instrumental – pruned beats rattle, key progressions incline and decline, a guitar flitters on the periphery.
By the time his vulnerable words, “I know it’s not me / but I can’t stay selfless anymore” hit you, you are already pinching wetness from your eyes. He does it again with the final song, Yr Heart Is Beating. A cut of Lontalius’ singing the song’s title becomes audible and then shrinks back to silence. I find my ears chasing the semi-muted voice like a child lost in a shopping centre. It all ends with rubber tyres spinning down a rain-wet road.
Marvellous work Lontalius – the only butterfly to overcome his mortal limits.
‘Ill Forget 17’ is out March 25th, grab a pre-order here.