There seems to be a thing for having a minimalist setup these days. Not that itâ€™s a trend, more just a way of executing your music without the unnecessary need for other band members who would prove superfluous. Plus, with a two piece you can fit all your stuff in the back of a Ford Ka probably and get to gigs quite easily, right?
Illness are a duo from Brighton, holding down drums and guitar respectively. Their sound staggers about a fair bit, as though unsure of commitment. At times it strays dangerously close to the tribal builds and crashing barrage made famous by Baltimoreâ€™s Oxes, especially â€˜Dave Escapesâ€™ â€“ a two minute stuttering tug of tappy guitar lines and abrasive drum patterns. It shudders with this twitching gait, like something thatâ€™s being slowly tortured via electrodes; spasmodically jerking back and forth. In other cases, Illness seem to retain a joyful pop sensibility, one gained from prolonged exposure to twiddling twee-indie. â€˜Bane Faceâ€™ is the best example of this; itâ€™s almost summery bounce, coupled with erratic drum rolls, crashing cymbals and meandering vigour makes for interesting listening.
â€˜Gutmilkâ€™ is the sound of Don Caballero condensed into 71 seconds. Whilst it manages to stretch out progressive patterns of sound, Illness seem to build upon this sustained ringing note, allowing the drums to dominate the track. They punch through with a slow, steady force under the meticulous whine of the guitar. â€˜Hail! Kittyâ€™ follows a rather basic path, occasionally rising and falling as the notes interchange, but unfortunately highlights the somewhat limitations of such a basic setup. â€˜Mark In Springâ€™ takes Illness down the territory they seem more focussed on, which is emulating or rather ambitiously, attempting to out-do Oxes through the use of their staccato beats and odd time signatures that seem to dip into progressive rock, back into gleeful pop and dense post-punk urgency.
â€˜Old Songâ€™ is the highlight of â€˜Gifts From Godâ€™ however. Itâ€™s decrepit sound tumbles along with a determined focus, that touches slightly on the side the math-rock urgency of Adebisi Shank, stuffed to the brim with feverish drum rolls and a stuttering pace.Â My only chagrin is that it should have been longer, but for what it is; a tight pounding blast of rhythmic energy; Illness have exceeded expectations in creating uplifting, positive instrumental rock that has this infectious memorable quality and a raw, stripped-down, ramshackle sound.
‘Gifts From God’ can be pre-orded from the Smalltown America website here.
By Ross Macdonald