Around 15 years ago, a user named “airloaf” began uploading video clips of evangelical church services to YouTube. Picture flailing arms and rapturous uplift—swooning exorcisms, devotees collapsing, pastors with cordless mics and wild dance moves. The soundtrack to these extraordinary scenes? Only the ruffest, tuffest jump-up drum’n’bass. Thanks to some improbably tight syncing, the bootleg clips—titled “Baptazia: Super Sunday,” in a nod to the legendary Fantazia raves of the early ’90s—collided worlds in ways that provoked both laughter and awe. They also spoke to a deeper collective belief: of the rave scene as a place of communion, dance as spiritual connection, rudeboy MCs as modern-day preachers in the pulpit.
This blend of ideas is a well-tapped seam in dance music, and with He Hymns, Bristol-born producer LCY becomes the latest to transpose the worlds of hard dance and hardcore religion; they call their latest EP an attempt “to tie songs of worship into club tracks.” But LCY, whose rhythms are among the slipperiest in contemporary club music, fuses the two dimensions with a little more nuance—though no less punch and roll—than those tongue-in-cheek Baptazia vids.
These five tracks deal in themes of bodies and breakbeats, searching and spiritual release. LCY has been arranging flickering breaks and hi-def sound design around complex conceptual frameworks for a while. In 2021, Pulling Teeth introduced a fictional character—a hybrid of canine, human, and robot—and a “dystopian post-human world” called Ériu; 2022’s “Cherubim” was inspired by “parasitic angel-like creatures” in a surveillance state. He Hymns pulls short of sculpting a new universe, instead providing a songbook of sorts for imagined inhabitants.
The price of bodily devotion (“I don’t have much, but I give it to you/My eyes, my touch, I’ll give it to you,” runs the ghostly refrain of “Sora”) rubs up against a yearning for meaning: “Give me something to believe in,” goes “Believe.” These vocals are stripped and whittled, falling over brittle, staccato rhythms like curled metal shavings from a drill bit. But occasionally, things do get bogged down; the choppy “Bad Blood,” made of little more than stuttering vocals and splintered breaks, crumbles into a form that’s uncharacteristically aimless and unmoving.
Given the claustrophobic tenor of these tracks, it sounds like religion, for LCY, means stricture as much as scripture. He Hymns offers a route out, but not without a tussle: “Bad Blood” is spiny and oppressive, an iron maiden molded from sharp percussion and flat kicks; the 27-second title track, which acts as a sort of mid-EP interlude, sounds like being trapped in a nightclub bathroom stall, hurried whispers and muted organ licks leaking through the walls. But when LCY makes room for release—via a sumptuous post-jungle bassline on “Sora,” or on closer “Heartbreaker,” with its gamut of pitched stabs, looping coos, and artillery breaks—it arrives as pure catharsis. “Believe,” the highlight, is light and frothy as whisked egg whites. Ultimately, LCY reserves their reverence for the moody strains of UK club music. Church would certainly be more fun if it sounded like this.
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