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Ilya - Somerset

Ilya, Somerset

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

ILYA are comprised of Joanna Swan and Nick Pullin and they specialise in deeply laidback music that recalls the vocal brilliance of Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald and Dusty Springfield.

The main reason for seeking it out – given its Internet-only release – is the astonishing beauty of Swan’s classic vocals, which really take on a melt in the mouth quality, whether set against the jazz style of old New Orleans or classic prog rock guitar.

Ilya are, of course, previously known for their critically-acclaimed debut album, They Died For Beauty, which spawned the single Bellissimo that has subsequently featured prominently on world-wide advertising campaigns by both Revlon and Cacharel.

Their second album, Somerset builds on the success of that debut, drawing on many classic styles that seek to ring the maximum effect out of those breathy, dreamy vocals.

There are times when you can imagine their music providing a fitting backdrop to some of the European adventures of Sean Connery’s ‘60s-based 007, or set against the smoky bar scene of high-society Paris, such is the rich imagery that is conjured from their music-making (and that’s not bad for an outfit from Bristol!).

Some of the tracks are more of an acquired taste than others, yet there is absolutely no denying the distinctive quality of those vocals that ensure Ilya defy comparisons with anyone contemporary.

Opening track September Rendezvous kicks things off in sultry fashion, providing a dark jazz backdrop for Swan’s vocals to seduce you, while there are some more sunshine melodies surrounding the follow-up In The Valley that recall the breezy style of California Dreamin’.

There’s an altogether rockier feel attached to the lively Falling Everywhere, with its foot-stomping bursts of guitar and grittier vocal style. It gives way into a genuinely catchy chorus that invites a sing-along to emerge as one of the album’s brightest moments.

There’s more electric guitar on the tender, piano-based Wonderful, a dreamy love song that builds slowly with verses such as ‘if I lose everything I have, if I break apart so easily, will you always be wonderful’, before giving way into a beautifully intoxicating chorus that abounds with hope.

Airborne drifts blissfully back into the jazz era, slowing things down a notch and delivering another set of vocals to drool over, while there’s a happy go-lucky, folksy appeal to We Shone, with its cute melodies and generally warm glow.

The rest of the album continues in similarly expressive fashion, with tracks like Glory proividing a shuffling style and vocals that hint at the deep, husky tones of Bassey. It’s in stark contrast to the slower, more deliberate final tracks Sleepwalking and Still You Can’t Say No that ease the album to its close in meticulous, slow-building style (the latter, especially, becomes a powerfully emotional listen).

It means that Somerset is an amazing listen that really does catch you off-guard with its ability to be different. Those that seek it out from Universal Digital won’t be disappointed.

Track listing:

  1. September Rendezvous
  2. In The Valley
  3. Falling Everywhere
  4. Wonderful
  5. Airborne
  6. We Shone
  7. Winter In Vienna
  8. The Last Castrato
  9. Glory
  10. Juanita
  11. Sleepwalking
  12. Still You Can’t Say No