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Poise Is the Greater Architect

Rating: NR/10 ?

October 1, 2004
Ilya has been developing quite a reputation in the San Diego scene since their first EP, Myriad Sessions, which was released soon after their March 2001 formation. Ilya's reputation is one for making beautiful, sensual music. They've been cited as a band that draws from everything from jazz, to trip-hop, to ambient and avant-garde noise rock and makes it work wonderfully. But before I surrender to all this press-sheet-worthy praise and count myself a fan, I need to decide, of course, whether or not it's all true for myself.

"Isola," the first song from Poise Is the Greater Architect, Ilya's proper debut, is a dark number that opens with some ominous keyboard and rhythmic bass, followed by the addition of atmospherics and then Blanca Rojas's haunting vocals around the forty-second mark. Here, Rojas's vocals can be compared to those of Fiona Apple, just as much as the following song, "Rana"'s opening keyboard-playing can.

Although I haven't been overly impressed with "Isola," "Rana" is another story. Off-kilter percussion reminiscent of noise (in a much downplayed sense) add a sense of urgency to Rojas's unhurried vocals and either Morton's or Baker's (both are keyboardist/guitarists) keyboard playing. Towards the end of the song, some very noise-esque, distorted atmospherics drown out everything else, only to be drowned out in reciprocation by the band before the song closes. "BPD" finds Ilya bordering on redundancy, a song almost indistinguishable from "Rana," but "I Want To Know" rescues Ilya from monotony with the introduction of male vocals just as evocative as the female vocals with which they are juxtaposed.

"Blatchford," however, is Poise Is the Greater Architect's hands-down winner for best track. Rojas's vocals are more-or-less spoken word, a repetition of "My heart is dragged by the sole of my shoe/ I enter the room my existence is surreal/ And I ask myself how do I look and does it matter " before lapsing into a melancholy chorus." The silence in this room occupies more space/than the art on display" and lapsing into noise-influenced heavy distortion. Eventually, Rojas starts her spoken-word again amidst the noise before it fades away and all you hear is her, some guitar, a drum beat, and hushed male backup vocals. The combination of Rojas' feminine voice with heavily distorted noise would probably create enough beauty in one song to make me a fan of Poise Is the Greater Architect, but luckily, other songs keep me entertained as well. Rojas changes her singing style a bit towards the end of the record, and on a couple of songs from "Lady Folly" on she sings in an almost Bjork-ian manner, which keeps things interesting.

My only major problems with Poise Is the Greater Architect are the first song, "Isola," which I have already noted, the boring, eight-minute-long closer "Guilty Kisses," and the rare but still annoying repetition on some of the record's material. Similar to a female fronted Black Heart Procession that never gets jangly, Ilya has found a solid debut in Poise Is the Greater Architect.

Reviewed by Jeanette Samyn
A contributing writer for LAS and a former music director WBAR at Barnard College.

See other reviews by Jeanette Samyn



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