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With his third album, Ruinism, Lapalux (producer Stuart Howard) shifted his sound from syrupy R&B and hip-hop mutations to jagged, deconstructed audio design closer to visionaries like Rabit or Demdike Stare, and switched the thematic focus from lovelorn dreaming to alarmed ponderings about mortality. Amnioverse continues in this existentialist mode -- its title is a portmanteau of the amniotic sac and the universe, relating to a fluid, perpetual cycle of life, death, and rebirth. The album contains the producer's most complex, detailed arrangements yet, incorporating sounds of the elements and modular synthesizers into pristinely detailed compositions that progress from near stillness to intense, fractured rhythmic sections. Vocals play an equally significant role as they did on past Lapalux albums, with guest singers JFDR and Lilia providing key moments of heartfelt introspection, but this time Howard additionally threaded spoken snippets from people close to his heart into the tracks. In some instances, these moments are absolutely devastating, such as the point in "Earth" when a man expresses heartbreak at the bleakness of the world. At times, the tracks draw parallels to the cryptic atmospherics of Burial, but jetted out into space rather than riding a night bus in a rain-soaked metropolis. On "Voltaic Acid," twisted jungle breakbeats surge out of nowhere after several minutes of solemn stirring, made even more caustic by spiraling acid synth sequences. Tracks like "Momentine" and "Thin Air" build up to storming techno beats rather than revolve around them, and these sensations of suspense and wonder drive the album and keep it compelling. "Limb to Limb" features the album's most memorable, affecting vocals (by Lilia) set against mangled, blown-out breaks, and "The Lux Quadrant" is supremely warped electro in the vein of Lanark Artefax or Objekt, pausing for JFDR's desperate cries ("I'm bleeding you"). Like Ruinism, Amnioverse is an ambitious, striking record that seems to assess the entirety of existence, and it's hard not to feel moved by it.

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