By Daniel Paiz
Another installation of A Week’s Worth album review is upon us, and this time things are taking a bit of a left turn. The last review was of a well-known emcee who has all the notoriety he could ever want already. This iteration is getting back to focusing on those acts who aren’t getting the same amount of attention.
If you are unfamiliar with illexotic, they are a Bay Area, California electro-hip-pop duo consisting of flutist and vocalist Corinita, and rapper slash pianist Josh. Both of these musical individuals have a whole lot to share, and so there newest project is brimming to the top with energy. There’s something for everyone in their newest album, illustrations, which is out on most streaming platforms.
Breaking it down track by track
The best way to get into this project is to really just go song by song, and gauge my reaction as I listen along. There’s both an overall concept to this project, and at the same time each track has its own message. What’s intriguing about this tape for me is that it simultaneously feels like a concept is running throughout; and yet, isn’t at the same time. Stating it’s indescribable might come across as a bit cliché, but there’s something that makes me wrestle with it being both an entire project and simply a collection of songs. Breaking it down track by track might help to make sense of this sentiment.
Definitely appreciating how “Listening Party” is a zoom party full of people struggling to hear what’s going on. This opener increases my curiosity for what’s next.
“World stays…” has a cinematic opening, feeling like a major headliner is going to get the party started. Didn’t expect the heavy, “Yeezus”-like bass we’re encountering throughout. A sonic landscape is what I’m getting as the music progresses along; conceptually things are still artsy slash ambiguous.
“HARD” has the listener arriving on planet bass as things get grooving. Jams pretty well so far. I’m beginning to debate if this is more of a collection of songs as opposed to a bigger concept guiding things along. The lyrics about resistance do sway the needle back to the music being about different imprints of the artist’s beliefs. Things start to click.
“Freedom” is the most complete song thus far, due to lyrics that draw you in. The direction here is strung together nicely, and has a festival feel to it. Declaring freedom without regard for hateful rhetoric is needed and loud and clear from start to finish.
“Glorious Revolution” picks up where “Freedom” left off. Breaking down systemic oppression and the structural barriers drops plenty of info that casual listeners might not have expected. A break from the messaging piling up comes in the form of a sweet guitar section, which is much needed. The last part of the song is more of a rallying cry, which is a good mix after the info-heavy first half of the song.
“#self” examines how one navigates the world today and figures out one’s sense of self. Somewhat existential, but also reflecting of the times. Feels like it could have been a little longer.
“F.O.M.H” feels like the embodiment of working through one’s own mental health, which is still so stigmatized in 2021 despite all of the discussion about it. Another much needed track.
“Sojourn” continues as a journey of self-discovery and working to understand life and oneself via introspection. This joint needs multiple plays in a row. It hits that tricky cross section of being both timely and timeless. Pushing through barriers of life that one encounters is tough but so needed.
“Change Ur Mind” is a neat combination of braggadocio and positivity despite the negativity all around. It borders on trolling at certain parts towards the end, but still largely keeps its main focus.
“Love Yourself” illustrates how self-love and building up oneself is vital. Such a reminder is everywhere, but this song feels like a gentle challenge to check your own perspective and attitude before moving forward. It’s one of those unexpected difficulties; what appears to be simple is deceivingly difficult. Another very replayable track.
“Blue Skies” is a very visual track, one that entirely feels like chilling on whatever your version of an open window is. You’re reflecting, and absorbing what’s out there. What you’re absorbing is what’s to come, even if it hasn’t distinctly manifested itself yet. This piano powerfully sets the mood, as does the flute.
“Trippy end clip_02” is very strange how the track listing disappeared after I hit play. I appreciate how it feels like a mix of the songs across the project. Perhaps it’s to illustrate all of the feelings and directions reflected throughout. It kind of is going the same direction as the first three tracks of the album: artsy and ambiguous. Very playful ending.
Played “Blue Skies” again because the end clip wouldn’t reappear…for some reason it’s almost like a hidden track now after initially I could click on it.
When the songs hit, they really convey this duo’s messaging and musical intentions really well. On the four tracks that are a bit more abstract, artsy and/or ambiguous, it feels more like a playlist than an album. It’d be interesting to see this project as perhaps eight to nine tracks, and cutting a few of those first three tracks. These other tracks don’t necessarily detract, it’s the editor in me wanting to tighten up the focus.
It’s not that I don’t like those tracks. Said tracks feel like they’re not as connected to the overall messaging the other tracks are. Another interesting direction could have been scattering these tracks in between songs four thru eleven, as that would’ve been like a break of sorts between some heavier sections. Addressing a variety of issues is needed in more music today; sometimes, there just needs to be a bigger break between said important tracks.
That being said, it is an impressive effort at illustrating just what’s important to Corinita and Josh on this tape. The masses could use a tape like this in their musical rotations.