Illuminaut Drops Debut EP
From the spindly percussive tone beneath “The Grey” to the more aggressive thrash of the rhythm in the climax of “Native Alien,” the beat is always playing an important part in telling us a story in the new self-titled record from Los Angeles-based Illuminaut. It’s fairly common to try and pull different elements together within a mix to generate a vibe to match lyricism, but I would be lying if I said this band wasn’t going above and beyond to give us something really engaging in this EP, which has a much grander sonic profile than most any other record of its length to debut in the past year or so.
Production quality is always a primary focus of mine as a critic, and this is a rare instance where an indie band not only rejects the plasticity of a mainstream look but outright pushes themselves to give us as controlled a sound as can be created by a duo as indebted to the legacy of Neurosis as this one is. You don’t have to be a professional critic to pick up on the discipline behind the performances here; in fact, I would make the argument that the very stylization of the heaviest songs here, like “Dead Messenger,” speaks volumes on its own.
Both “Dead Messenger” and “Two Wolves” elegantly capture the sonic depth that Illuminaut is bringing to the table with them in this record, and I think one could even charge that the simplistic construction of the tracklist makes it even easier to appreciate the detail in this mix. We’re not getting lost in a lot of outside content or unnecessary dialogue – there are no samples, no wild sound effects, nor any campy points of humor to balance out the emotionality of a verse. This is straight-up indie prog, and it couldn’t sound much leaner and meaner.
Melodies are never absent from view in songs like “Two Wolves” and “The Grey,” but instead sewn into the bedrock of the music rather than featured as a cosmetic front for the tracks. You could say that Illuminaut are being a little more rebellious than they have to be and I’d agree with you, but what really sticks out to me here is their deliberate rejection of augmented grooves and synthetic harmonies, both of which are becoming scarily common in a lot of alternative rock. These artists prefer an organic sound, and that’s clear from the get-go in this record.
I didn’t know what to expect out of a progressive EP out of the L.A. underground this February, but I can tell you now that Illuminaut is one of the more intriguing and talented acts in or outside of their scene making this kind of music at the moment. They’ve got a handle on what they don’t want to be, and although there’s still some work to do in shaping their complete identity, I think this EP highlights their complete lack of pointless excesses that normally keep quality prog acts from breaking the barrier and finding their own audience.