The Players: John Mattos, bass, percussion; Geoff Hill, drums, percussion; Blanca Rojas Fowler, vocals, percussion; Carrie Gillespie Feller, vocals, piano, rhodes, synth; Demetrius AtuЦa, vocals, guitar; Matthew Baker, vocals, piano, Rhodes, synth, guitar.
Material: An veritable orchestra of dynamic percussion, haunting piano riffs and echoing guitar noises coalesce in ILYA’s songs. The band’s catalog is highlighted by soaring, operatic vocal tones that illuminate the darkness. “Another Day,” the band’s most successfully composed track, accelerates with an assertive beat and is calmed by its delayed guitar riff and melodic vocals. “Machine” and “Baalbec” show promise, but the rest of the material often melds together. Intros and bridges become repetitive while vocal melodies run too similar a path. More diverse and upbeat songwriting would allow songs like “Storm” to stand out.
Musicianship: Fowler belts her enchanting, low-end vocals with confidence, but becomes whiny and unsure in the higher register. Hill hammers the skins with force and drives the material, only occasionally pushing the tempo. Mattos gels with Hill and strides all over his bass when necessary. Additionally, Fowler and Mattos play syncopated rhythms to accent the beats. Feller and Baker complement each other and have gentle fingers on the keys. Their playing adds a delicate beauty to contrast AtuЦa’s distorted, sludgy riffs.
Performance: ILYA trudged through a dark set of swaying originals for an intimate audience. The band filled up the small venue with powerful riffs and cascading vocals. “Gomez,” the romantic, instrumental opener prepped the audience for what was to ensue.The band switched gears with the upbeat “Baalbec,” which broke the slow pace. The hollow beat and vocal breakdown preceded a thrashing, catchy chorus, but the whiny vocals undermined the gritty integrity. Extra percussion on some of the songs was unnecessary and overpowered the melodic piano riffs.
As the band merged into the latter half of the set, the choruses strengthened and intensified. As “Another Day” faded away, the grizzly, disturbed minor chord riff of “Storm” intruded. With a dirty bass lick, this song grinded gears in the best possible way before sensually fading out. While Fowler’s vocals were controlled, the lyrics often trailed off.
The finale of “Isola” diverted from the slower tempos with a solid 16th note groove and fuzzy bass line, providing a sturdy foundation for the keys and swaying vocal melody. The keys sliced the delayed guitar until the fadeout.
Summary: ILYA’s material shows promise, but at this point too many of the songs fail to stand out, instead blurring into redundancy. More songs like “Another Day” will help the band draw a bigger following. – Vincent Stevens