Lilly Joel: What Lies in the Sea (Sub Rosa, 2015)

January 30, 2016 at 7:13 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Lilly Joel: What Lies in the Sea

Lilly Joel: What Lies in the Sea

OK, so this duo immediately attracts attention with their silly name, which is as much a play on their actual first names (Lynn and Jozef) as a goof on the piano man. Their music is really strange, inventive, and often lovely, and the novely of the group’s name pretty much disappears once the album is underway. The duo uses Fender Rhodes, Casio, effects, found objects, and ethereal vocals, creating improvised dronescapes and haunted avant-pop songs. The vocals are scattered, lost, drifting, and sometimes glitched out, but then at times they snap into focus. A few tracks have bright Rhodes chords, but then others are formless, sometimes spiced by ringing bells and other clanging objects. There’s also lots of heavy Oval-like glitching, but it feels coarse and rough, like you can actually feel the machine malfunctioning. There’s a surprising amount of bass to these drones. “A wheel in the Palm of Your Hand” has a crunchy pulse to it, and the vocals gradually go from fragmented, skipping, and sample-like to full-fledged singing. “Thaw” also starts out timid and aloof, but it eventually seems to settle into a focused mindstate (not quite a rhythm), with some vague horror movie suspense cues evident, and there’s more intense glitching at the end. “Ruben’s Tree” begins with some slowly pulsating backwards tones, and when the shadowy vocals come into focus, there’s somewhat of a Broadcast-like feel to them, before the glitch elements take over and go haywire. “I Can See You From Afar” is one of the album’s clearest, most directly emotional moments, with glistening keyboard drones and wispy vocals, which eventually dovetail into backwards effects, strange vocalese sounds, and small handheld instruments like kalimbas. These continue on “Today a Small Bird Died Due to Sadness (He Was 6 Years Old)”, picking and pulling against waving, reversing, glitching Rhodes. Final track “Dew” is calm, sorrowful, and shimmering.

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