Playing on Prefix is a feature on KCRW’s Music Blog in which writers from the eclectic music site Prefix hip you to what’s coming out of their computer speakers each week.
Oxford, MS is a small Southern city with a bit of a mixed identity. The city simultaneously plays host to the campus of Ole Miss–which includes William Faulkner’s home– and just a stone’s throw away, is the Cats Purring Dude Ranch, a show-house run by locals Dent May and members of Bass Drum of Death. Even though ILLLS probably spend a considerable amount of time in the house, their sound is almost completely detached from anything happening within those walls.
ILLLS are a two-piece that aren’t exactly what they seem. Singer Jim Barrett leads another Oxford band called Young Buffalo and drummer Steven Ross has an electronic project based in nearby Jackson, MS called Talk Slow. On their five-track debut, the Dark Paradise EP, the band manages to cram garage rock riffs, warbly surf rock melodies, shoegaze pop orchestration, programmed and live drums, vocal loops, and more samples than you can count on one hand into 22 minutes of music.
The lead single “Teeth” is a lot like ILLLS as a band: on the surface it sounds like a two man garage act, but after a minute you realize the drummer’s playing much more complicated patterns than you’re used to, and by the time the refreshingly passive “mull it over” chorus comes and goes, the synth refrain that follows seems like the only logical step.
On “Where Will it Grow” the heavily reverbed guitar and vocals share the same sonic space, and even though most of the lyrics are indecipherable, the melodies create the tension of a repeated unanswered question. The answer finally comes when the intro breaks its own fever with a math rock-y studder, a now-characteristic guitar lead, and a drum beat that seems to validate the whole thing. Just like “Teeth” it ends where it started.
“It’s Not Me” might be the biggest departure for the band. It starts with what sounds like a sample from a Wes Anderson soundtrack which is cut off by treble-heavy guitar strumming, elevated vocals, atmospheric synth flourishes, and tribal drum sounds. The track ends with an Animal Collective circa Merriweather Post Pavilion singing cycle. That album, by the way, was recorded in Oxford.
- by Matthew Putrino