Released 16 June 2017
Synths and beats meet with Some Kind of Illness’ atmospheric ambience in their latest release.
And, mark my words, this doesn’t just diversify their sound, it elevates it. Awakening is an album from this Farnworth-based band which emphasizes their ability to build new soundscapes, adding new technologies, yet still retaining their own immersive quality. From self-titled, to Souls and now Awakening, the progression of their music seems to tell the story of sound and creative skill growing in consciousness. Something you want to be part of.
The album opens with the title track itself, like an assertion – alternating synths and gentle acoustics overlaid by gradual beats. The choice of opening with an instrumental is brave and suggests the band’s assurance in their evolving sound, allowing for a mind-opening experience for the listener as they are guided through the lovingly constructed layers. This is ambience with an edge, almost dance-ambience, it embraces difference.
Ten tracks is an ambitious choice and Some Kind of Illness certainly don’t shy away from putting their new auditory explorations out there. In a bold contrast to the title track, Neon Glass follows with rapid beats and layered vocals shimmering with echo. Reflecting and refracting over lines like ‘dancing like the shoes are red forever’, this is music which revels in creating its own concepts for a stunning listen.
No More Waiting is more downtempo, still with a rousing beat pattern, but with slowly oozing synths speaking of ‘shiny stone’ and ‘twisted head’ – testament to the new symbolism in their work and Mark Hinks’ lyrical craft. A concise track which is well co-ordinated with the lyrics, it cuts at just over two minutes, letting the repeated lines ‘loosen all the chains I cut’ into an emotive, emergent guitar solo.
Some Kind of Illness still have retained their skill for guitar just as they have retained their skill for collaboration too, as ‘Violet Dream’ features Hara Su and is a real tactile treat of a sound, allowing you to feel real heartfelt human expression with fingersnaps thickened with slowly ascending keys, chimes and dual vocals. With Hara Su’s ethereal voice adding reflective force formative to this track, it makes melody out of the emotional momentum, with the repeated line ‘I’ll carry on’ crashing over the listener like a realisational tide – we can turn even the most turbulent experiences of our lives into deeply layered artistry. Some kind of illness certainly do, and it just keeps coming.
The album manages to balance beats and instrumentation well – something which proves the pitfall of many bands when emerging onto electronic lines. Illustrative of this, Memories in a Window begins with a physical drumbeat, draped with gentle cymbals and the synths minimal to allow the contemplative strokes of a guitar to slip us in. Music of reflection is one thing, but this track is actively reflective , ‘looking for things in all the wrong places/looking for love on all the wrong faces’ an effective full rhyme to show the clarity of memory. I picture a figure, hauntingly, ‘wearing the skin of time standing still’ told to me through a trembling stir of emotion – reflecting indeed, experiences of love and loss which hauntingly resonate. Some Kind of Illness’ music continues to reach out, refuting the concept of a more electronic edge meaning greater distance from the listener.
Ledana is a slow surge of music before sharper notes come in, making audience actively aware of the layers – the kind of late-night listening which assures us we are not alone and an ideal track at the mid-point of a dance-ambient album – a show of instrumental strength too. This strikes a balance which reminds me a little of Moby’s early work, taking time to appreciate the electronic experience of the listener.
The following track Cyclone provides a rousing contrast, fast-paced beats with some of longest, lingering notes of the album – music which manages simultaneous speed and succinctness, melancholy and meaning. This after all, is a track telling of the turbulence of emotion, stating that ‘there’s a cyclone in my sky again’ through dual vocals – the innocence of Daisy Davies combining with the emotive, experienced lines of Paul Hinks for a powerfully moving track rich in Some Kind of Illness’ signature symbolism and a vocal quality, resounding in its reflection, which they have retained across albums.
Icarus highlights their boldness in symbolism too – taking the example of fallen Greek figure and reanimating him through a warm warp of fuzzy synths and spiralling notes allowing us to come to terms with a character of old to mould meaning in our own lives – ‘live with a free mind, sometimes’ sending a message of hope. Reinterpret the past to enrich your own future, it is a possibility, and a point well-sustained at just under four minutes.
Each track follows on to guide us through the soundscape, Snowflakes perhaps one of most intriguing on the album, launching with something distinctly robotic, like a computer starting up. Is this jarring? No – for an Italian-accented voice suddenly immerses us as ‘every motion of every action’ is accounted for, speaking of ‘snowflakes melted’, allowing us to bathe in the beauty of this gentle reflection. It’s seemingly symbolic of coming to terms with new sounds, new experiences, depths – with an enigmatic guest vocal from Virginia Martelozzo.
Finally, Crystal Light seethes in, scratchy beats and confident guitar picking over the top reminding me a little of James’ Government Walls – glorying in the gravity of sound to stir us into thought and open our minds. The lyrics are particularly intelligent, cracking open symbolism, ‘she’s the universe and I am only a world’ to reveal the significance of language of emotion we express to each other in love, sometimes unaware of the weight it imposes. Crucially, the track seems fitting finale on an album which confirms Some Kind of Illness’ ability to get under the skin and inflame our emotional consciousness, this time using crafted electronica to ease expression to the surface and gain emotional understanding. Clear creative progression which works.
If the self-titled starter and‘Souls were albums linked to loss, Awakening is an album of realisation. The realisation that music takes us beyond this into new feeling. Tracks you can lose yourself but simultaneously become more aware of feeling. Highly recommended immersion this Summer.
Album artwork by Rhiannon Clark
Words by Emily Oldfield