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Lillian Review

by Marisa Brown

Though Lillian, the collaborative album between Anticon producer Alias and his younger brother Ehren, is named after their grandmother, it's not a record that tells specific stories about her life, or anyone else's for that matter (this is no Rehearsing My Choir). Instead, like Brian Eno's soundscapes, the songs on Lillian give descriptions of ideas and places, of thoughts and emotions. Layers of keyboards and guitars slip around programmed beats like water over stones, and then the winds (played by Ehren) -- the alto and soprano saxes, the flute, the clarinet -- slide their way in and add a nice organic quality to the otherwise electronic sound. Lillian is pretty, sad music for early morning, when the sun is not yet on the horizon but the air is light and objects around are muted, nearly monochromatic. And similarly, the tracks themselves also become indistinguishable from one another, though each still adds to the sense of melancholy. There's never a climax or any kind of resolution; rather, it's just the fading in and out of ideas, but despite the fact that the formula becomes apparent after a few songs, nothing ever gets boring. The closest thing, perhaps, to concrete imagery is "52nd & West," with its synthesized strings and soft guitar-and-flute break, ending in something like a train pulling past the station, but everything else offers only mere suggestions of tangibility, choosing instead to focus on the overall effect as opposed to specificities. Lillian is an album that, while it perhaps shouldn't be listened to as a set of individual songs, should definitely be taken seriously as a whole, as something for the background when the background's as much of a presence as what's in it. It's a troubling, sweet record that's more than willing to immerse itself in abstraction and a lack of clarity, stimulating thought instead of giving distinct answers, which makes it quite a powerful accomplishment.

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