Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ill-iteracy: The Ensembly Line

     I've got to be truthful here. Before Ill-iteracy sent my this album, I'd never heard of the group. At first I put off the review because I thought it'd be like every other monotonous and aggressive rap album that aims to rip words from their personal beliefs and shove them in your face in an effort to convert you. Imagine my surprise when I realised that this record was much, much more than that. Jazz, piano, hip hop and R&B elements all manage to slide their way into the folds of this album. What impresses me more though, is the fact that this is a relatively large record, weighing in at one and a half hours, but one that is able to grab my attention and maintain it throughout it's twenty one tracks. Ill-iteracy are judging by their album art, a quartet, hailing from the US, with this album available for free from their website. Check it out, even it's purely out of curiosity.
     The feel of this album, before I get into any particular track, is very interesting. There is an aggression to this album, but one that feels as though it supports the music rather than carry it. I got the impression while listening to this record that the group has used loud, aggressive sounds in the past, but have now earned the respect to walk down the street without needing to prove themselves any further. There is a proud swagger to the album that weaves it's way from track to track. I also felt as though the album asked more questions than it did force statements, which was enjoyable. Effects are used well to, from sampled jazz singers on the title track to the reverb on others. The sound of the tracks is quite varied as well, from the more mainstream rap songs to ones that introduce more singing, or talking, merging to form a pretty fantastic blend of the unique and mainstream.
     There are so many good tracks on this record that I couldn't possibly talk about them all. The first track 'Intro-Spective' is a brilliant opening that end's with the words 'let's begin'. In doing so, the song feels more like an proper introduction, rather than the group diving straight into the bulk of the album. 'Do You' is another inspiring three and a half minutes that starts with a surprisingly insightful and thought-provoking monologue that sets the tone for the rest of the track. The chorus is sang in a deeper tone, with the words shrouded in quite a moody atmosphere that contrasts nicely with the surrounding songs. The ending, cut up by spoken words, leads into the next track, one that is interrupted a few times with a child choir-like sound. Simply put, the record starts with a bang!
     One of my favourite tracks on the album has to be 'Non-Fiction Love Story', with it's soppy sampled introduction and female guest vocals from Drea J. that add even more variety to the record. The finishing song ends the album with the same impact as the start, bringing a sense of closure to the record that I really liked. It talks of saying goodbye, and waiting for the group's next musical output. It finishes with a conversation obviously set after the recording, in the studio, and which feels very natural and calm. A child's voice poses the question 'If this is just music, why it feel so good?', which for me, is a fantastic ending to a fantastic album. Nothing more needs to be said. Just get over to the website and download the album, like, right now. Seriously though, one of the better rap/hip hop albums I've heard this year.