ILLLS – Dark Paradise EP (The Sounds of Sweet Nothing)
June 17, 2012 by Tshepo Mokoena
Together Jim Barrett and Steven Ross make up noisy indie outfit ILLLS, and on Dark Paradise succeed in pulling together a ballsy, varied and convincing debut effort. Just a state border away from Jeff The Brotherhood (a fellow duo they’re likely to draw comparisons with as their career develops) they hail from Mississippi’s Oxford, a town that’s swiftly building a reputation as some sort of garage pop hub (see Fat Possum Records and Gross Magic).
So how are these two meant to set themselves apart from an increasingly glutted ‘lo-fi’ scene while staying true to their undeniably DIY aesthetic? Well, that’s where the song-writing comes in. Specifically, that’s where the quality of their song-writing comes in: ILLLS manage to pair catchy refrains with flashing dashes of unexpected melodic turns, on tracks like ‘Streetcars’ and lead single ‘Teeth’. Though on a first listen both songs sound structurally similar, each contain experimental sampling elements and dynamic builds with enough gusto to burrow their way into your mind long after you’ve turned your speakers off.
Overall their approach to the EP is robust and replete with crashing cymbals, thundering basslines and that ever-so-slightly murky guitar sound that cuts through the mix and adds a rounded cushion to the blow of their heavier moments. Barrett and Ross share vocal duties throughout the record, switching from the near-falsetto timbre of ‘Where Will It Grow’ to the more forceful delivery on opener ‘Bathroom Floor’. They sing about day-to-day moments of parties, hazy sunrises and double-crossing lovers with the sort of straight-faced earnest openness that’s becoming harder for young songwriters to pull off without sounding contrived.
On ‘Goods’ they’re at their most experimental, employing the use of a drum machine, organ sample and Yo La Tengo-esque guitar wails to generally great effect. Perhaps the only sign of shortfall on this record is its very length: ILLLS come across well on Dark Paradise, but there isn’t yet the proof that they could keep things interesting once they cross the 40-minute mark. But hey, that’s what first-release EPs are here for after all, to give listeners a taste and sense of what’s to come. From what they’ve shown flexing their musical muscle here, ILLLS are a band to watch for 2012.