It’s singer-songwriter time, or, more accurately, singer-songwiter-producer-multi-instrumentalist-arranger-composer-engineer time, because Sydney-based Ilias does literally everything bar the strings on All The Way Up, which is his second album.
There’s a loose concept to the album; in his words it’s ‘a personal diary’ in the form of a ‘virtual film soundtrack’, to a film that I guess the listener makes up in their mind as they listen. It definitely took me on a bit of journey. To use a sociological term, he’s going for the sublime and he succeeds for the most part. Ilias’ production on the album is fittingly lavish, and the spacey artwork is fittingly pretty epic as well.
The album’s already getting rave reviews, and some guy called Neil Finn who was in a Kiwi hip-hop collective called The Crowded Houses (or something like that) has called Ilias’ musical talents ‘quite extraordinary’.
Ilias would also like you to choose which album cover you like the most:
(I chose the middle one, in case you were wondering).
Anyway, to the album:
While All The Way Up‘s press release touts it as a ‘film soundtrack’, don’t expect M83 or something (save for a few places, where you’ll probably be reminded a bit of M83’s score for the film Oblivion). All The Way Up is a bit more eclectic than that; while there are some ambient tunes later in the album, Ilias begins with two guitar-driven pop songs, which I will say surprised me a bit, especially once I listened a bit further into the album, given that he doesn’t really return to that territory afterwards. The first of these tracks is the dreamy ‘Someone Like You’, and on the second, ‘My Girl With Blue Eyes’, Illias gets his soul out for everyone. The latter in particular (dare I say it) has some echoes of that Nile Rodgers-produced French robot album to it.
Then he launches into an instrumental ambient piece, ‘Picture the Sun…’, because eclecticism.
From this point onwards, I’m going to insert things about the virtual movie, starring Ilias as our hero, and I’ll let you fill in the blanks. It was just too fun to not to write the rest of this review as though it were the plot outline for said virtual movie. So yeah, Ilias and Miss Blue Eyes are an item, but something is about to come between them. Feel free to add your own scenes to the story.
Next up, ‘Fire Away’ plays like a modern shoegaze track remixed by Giorgio Moroder, replete with a guitar solo that is equal parts J Mascis and Top Gun. This is the track where Ilias shines the most in my humble opinion. As far as the virtual movie goes, this is his ‘Danger Zone’: the bit where he proves himself by doing something absolutely epic that in a song’s time will culminate in him impressing the pants off of his co-star, the aforementioned blue-eyed one, one final time.
So yeah, next is the acoustic chillout session ‘It’s All About Her’ and….
Ilias, this is the part of the album where the protagonist has a steamy yet tender and tastefully (artfully?) filmed love scene with their paramour, right? It brings to mind that space where it’s just you and them, momentarily having not a care in the world save for the touch of one another….ah….look….that’s far, far too sappy. Boy and girl got it on and they both had an equally good time, and it was soundtracked by some music that they both really enjoyed. There. That’s much better.
Next up is the post-coital afterglow, which takes the form of some tender, chimey alt-country. It’s called ‘Turn the Clock Back’, though. It’s bittersweet. This love can’t last. Something’s about to get in their way.
Look, there’d be no more story otherwise, ok?
And so, after they fall asleep, something gets in their way. (In the deep of the night, perhaps?) we hear a foreboding, ambient instrumental, ‘Jet Glow’, that could be ‘Maggot Brain’ minus the shredding meets ‘Highway of Endless Dreams’. And we know that in the morning, things will definitely never, ever be the same. Oh, and on the next track you will find out that despite the vigorous sex scene during the preceding two tracks, Miss Blue eyes is not coming back. Ever. Damn.
Once we reach that next track, we realise that ‘Jet Glow’ was probably that tumultuous bit of the movie where Ilias has a revelation of some kind, but only once his girlfriend dumps him/is murdered/whatever, because in the alt-country-tinged track, ‘She’s Someone Else’s Problem Now’, he sings that, well, ‘she’s someone else’s problem now’, which leads us to envision a montage of Ilias running on a beach, riding his bike, strumming his acoustic guitar under a tree, being friendly to everyone and finally getting to spend time with his friends now that he’s single again.
Pretty quickly though, he’s reeling. By the time we reach the next song, ‘Finding You’, Ilias wants Miss Blue Eyes back and and he puts his mood into song, with some country rhythms, some melancholy fuzzy leads and (almost inconceivably) some reverse delay. Which I imagine doesn’t come out of a DD7.
Then we get an instrumental reprise of the ‘Fire Away’ theme, which is the bit where Ilias is alone, dwelling on his thoughts in despair (in whatever setting you want him to be, to be honest, because, have I already mentioned that this is just a virtual movie? As I’ve already said, readers, just make up your own scenes. It was the story of a dramatic voyage of self-discovery for me, but it might be about a maths genius with anger management issues for you).
We get a more positive epilogue, though. The last track is a sombre reprise of the opener, ‘Someone Like You’, hinting at a positive future for our hero, who in reality is already hard at work on album 3 (was I allowed to say that?). Haha.
Ilias is a top musician and a phenomenal producer, and All The Way Up is one of the best albums I’ve heard this year thus far.
All The Way Up is out now.
If you like: M83, Wilco.
Best Tracks: ‘My Girl With Blue Eyes’, ‘Fire Away’ (both versions), ‘She’s Someone Else’s Problem Now’, ‘Finding You’.