Album Review: Illum Sphere - Ghosts Of Then And Now

Album Review: Illum Sphere - Ghosts Of Then And Now
Artist Name:
Illum Sphere
Album Name:
Ghosts of Then and Now
Release Type:
Release Date:
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EM Review Rating:

Today EARMILK gives our listeners an in-depth analysis of one of Manchester's finest experimental producers right now, Illum Sphere. Currently owner and founder of renown club Hoya:Hoya, this versatile producer has created himself a status worldwide and deeply engrained himself in the music scene in the UK. Having released music on labels such as 3024, Tectonic and Young Turks, he finally finds himself at home on Ninja Tune Records. 

Ghosts Of Then And Now leads a new path in the genre of experimental by pushing the limits of how we categorize standard qualities that critics have come to expect. The entire piece is thirteen tracks long that extends over a mix of deep distortions to ambiguous alterations and even elements of classical instrumentals.  The album has been described as "a record so rich in ideas, themes, textures and writing that it will draw the listener in time and time again." 

From the initial start of Ghosts Of Then And Now I feel blown away as the chords in "Liquesce" are shockingly vibrant. It slowly grooves out as there is a quite drum pattern layered over top, performed by Shigeto. The song ends abruptly with the sound of someone catching their breath, planned as if preparing itself for the rest of the album.   

Stream: Illum Sphere - Liquesce

"At Night" and "Sleepwalker" are darker than most of the tracks and move the album to a jungle, wilder start. "At Night" maintains the eerie presence with Mai Nestor's vocals that harmonize with the beat. It moves the listener slowly into "Sleeprunner," which starts on edge and finishes with an interesting shaky tone.

Stream: Illum Sphere - At Night (Featuring Mai Nestor)

Stream: Illum Sphere - Sleeprunner

"The Earth is Blind" is a small prelude that leads right into "The Road". This is the first track we hear with the lovely vocals of Shadowbox, yet she is brought back twice more over the entire work. Shadowbox is based out of New York City and brings an interesting mix of a haunting voice with experimental fidgets of music. There is a good mix of chemistry between both artists that is apparent in all three collaborations. 

Stream: Illum Sphere - The Earth Is Blind (Prelude)

Stream: Illum Sphere - The Road (Featuring Shadowbox)

The next two songs titled "Ra_Light" and "It'll Be Over Soon" pay tribute to the father of experimental sounding summer music, Flying Lotus. "Ra_Light" is reminiscent of Flylo's album Cosmogramma, as it is a smooth instrumental yet Illum Sphere adds a unique melody.  "It'll Be Over Soon" on the other hand sounds similar to Pattern+Grid World as it models a glitchy structure that blends fragments of samples with shaky timbres of sound. 

Stream: Illum Sphere - Ra_Light

Stream: Illum Sphere - It'll Be Over Soon

At just two and a half minutes, "One Letter From Death" acts a smooth transition from the intial darker side of the album into a lighter, chilled finish. 

Stream: Illum Sphere - One Letter From Death

"Ghosts of Then and Now," although album titled did not stick out as a stronger point of the entire work. Instead this track was a jazzier side of Illum Sphere that changes the pace from the darker beginning. 

Stream: Illum Sphere - Ghosts Of Then and Now

"Love Theme From Foreverness" is the second track that features Shadowbox's singing yet does not outshine the magic of the first. Rather this track takes a softer route as it focuses less on the actual lyrics and more on the interesting mixture of sound made with Bonnie Baxter's voice and the choice of Ryan Hunn.

Stream: Illum Sphere - Love Theme From Foreverness (Featuring Shadowbox)

Coming to an unusual finish, "Lights Out / In Shinjuku" sounds similar to a two track split with the first half on a wavy tone and the final half slowly drifting away in light of the summer vibe. "Near the End" sticks out drastically as a party changer with a much more uptempo groove, despite the mellow title. Taking traces from "Ghosts Of Then And Now," it brings the last touch of Illum Sphere's jazz influence back into the album before finally finishing with an uproar of instruments. 

Stream: Illum Sphere - Near The End

Finally we have the last collaboration between Shadowbox and Illum Sphere that brings Ghosts of Then and Now to a finale. This track manages to bring together all of the unique feats that this album showcased, a harmonizing mix of vocals with ever-uplifting progressions, a stark jazzy beat, and an abrupt end. The song "Embryonic" is elegantly weaved and timed so that it leaves the listener wanting another track as it gives just a short taste.  

Stream: Illum Sphere - Embryonic (Featuring Shadowbox)

The whole entire album has managed to spark new interest with each revisal as there seems to be a countless amount of treasurable moments. Taking elements from all sorts of inspirations, Illum Sphere has created an authentic album that borrows ideas and blends others. The whole work brings another taste of summer to the long drawn out winter months, hoping to last you until the warm months veer their presence once again. 

Album · Chillwave · Downtempo · Experimental · Reviews


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