Sook-Yin Lee is a award-winning Canadian filmmaker, musician, actor, visual artist and broadcaster, who has immersed herself in myriad creative collaborations across a wide array of media. Many of those collaborations were made with her life partner and frequent co-creator Adam Litovitz, including their 2015 electroacoustic album jooj.
While financial difficulties and external pressures contributed to the end of their romantic relationship, Lee and Litovitz remained best friends and creative partners, eventually continuing to work on the material that would eventually comprise their sophomore album together jooj two. As he was busy working on a soundtrack for Netflix, Litovitz gave Lee his blessing to continue working on their second album without him. Increasingly, Litovitz struggled with anxiety and depression, compounded by a prescription drug dependency that exacerbated insomnia and pain. Tragically, Litovitz committed suicide on July 16, 2019.
Litovtiz’s death’s a profound loss for Lee — and for those who loved him. As it turned out, Lee saw pieces of Litovitz’s irrepressible spirit — as well as the story of their relationship — contained within jooj two’s material, and was determined to share it with the world. With the assistance of Steve Chahley, Lee finished the album, which was released last month through Mint Records.
Despite the tragic circumstances that surround its completion, jooj two is a celebration of life — especially Litovtiz’s. Much like its predecessor, jooj two’s material its centered around the duo’s life-long love of pop music and playful experimentalism. Interestingly, the album features songs that tap into moments across pop’s vast history paired with a unique songwriting approach that initially came about when Lee responded to a musical phrase with vocal melodies and stream of consciousness lyrics. Litovitz transcribed and interpreted this experiments and retuned them to Lee, who would further refine them. The end result is an album that evokes the feeling of being thrown into the shorthand created between those who intimately know each other.
jooj two’s latest single “Ship It Out” is a euphoric and playful dance floor friendly banger featuring buzzing synth arpeggios, thumping beats, an insistent, motorik-like groove, bursts of cowbell and syrupy, stream-of-consciousness delivered lyrics. Sonically the track — to my ears, at least — manages to recall a slick, hook-driven synthesis of Lipps, Inc.’s 1979 smash-hit “Funky Town,” Kraftwerk’s “The Man Machine” and Giorgio Moroder’s Munich Machine. Personally, if the song doesn’t make you get up and start dancing, there’s something wrong deep in your soul. “When Adam and I made ‘Ship It Out” it made us laugh hard and of course dance!” Sook-Yin Lee recalled in press notes. “I have no idea where the syrupy vocal chorus bubbled up from inside of me… but I’m glad it did!”
Directed by Lee and Dylan Gamble, the recently released video follows an Earthling protagonist — played by lee — as she stumbles upon a curious, interstellar traveler, who engages her sense of curiosity and wonder. Fittingly, the interstellar traveler and our Earthling protagonist initially communicate through dancing. Eventually. the traveller reveals the secrets of the Universe to her, and it includes an urgent warning about the fate of the world she inhabits. Maybe we all need to heed that warning, huh?