Some Kind Of Illness – ‘Awakening’.
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Awakening, the third full-length independent release from Manchester duo Some Kind Of Illness, is a record that feels a bit like it’s from another time – happily for some and perhaps not so happily for others, said time appears to be somewhere around the early 1990s.
The band cite Joy Division, The Cure and The Verve as influences, however on Awakening these mix with the sounds of 90s Electronica and Post-Punk, setting this record apart from their earlier guitar-led releases.
The record opens with the title track, ‘Awakening‘ – synth pads, gently picked acoustic guitar and a sparse electronic drumbeat frame a simple repeating two chord progression. The choice of synth sounds is what imparts a great deal of the 90s feel throughout this record – I have to be honest and say that for me, these digital sounds haven’t aged as well as the warm analogue synth tones of the 70s and 80s, but they sit pleasantly enough and set the stage sonically for the rest of the album.
‘Neon Glass’ has something of an 80s Indie/Goth feel, with the band’s (The)Cure influence showing in the steadily repeating high synth line and minimalist arrangement. Vocalist Paul Hink sounds somewhat like The Verve’s Richard Ashcroft, with a fairly laid back delivery throughout.
‘No More Waiting’ picks up with a slightly busier, up-tempo beat and a little more urgency in the vocals. Electric guitar makes an appearance later in the track but in keeping with the feel of the record as a whole, it’s sparse and acting more as texture than anything.
‘Violet Dream ft Haru Su’ is a highlight, with an upbeat, four on the floor kick drum propelling it along, and harmonica and glockenspiel providing welcome non-electronic sounds that add some lift to the underlying guitar/synth arrangement. It reminds me quite a lot of Funeral era Arcade Fire, with guest vocalist Haru Su’s high, breathy harmonies working really well alongside Paul’s more subdued vocals.
‘Memories In A Window’ features a more organic sounding drum loop (although sadly, not quite the real thing). More synth pads and a touch of electric guitar lay underneath Paul’s vocals in a track that is somewhat reminiscent of Talk Talk in style, if not production (with live drums, more organic instrumentation and natural room sound in the vein of Spirit of Eden, many of the tracks on this record would shine).
‘Ledana‘ is another pleasant instrumental but in contrast to the opening track features a welcome high synth melody line.
‘Cyclone ft Daisy Davies‘ features more high harmonies, some rolling fingerpicked acoustic guitar and a slightly more energetic beat, but it’s still very much a chill-out track with a sound that feels more rooted in 90s Dance Music than Indie/Folk.
‘Snowflakes ft Virginia Martelozzo‘ features a Spoken Word monologue over ambient synth swells and the occasional electronic chirrup. Minus the electronic beats, it feels a little less tied to a particular time period than the other tracks on the record.
Some Kind of Illness have been brave in choosing to evolve their sound for their third release, however there is a risk when using electronic beats and synths that you can add an element of sterility to a record and I think that Awakening does suffer a little from this. Without much melodic movement throughout the record, the production is more important than ever to hold the listener’s interest as the tracks progress, and I personally feel they could have benefited from adding a little more sonic variety. In many way however this seems to be the forte of Some Kind Of Illness, with the sounds they create providing a backdrop for their lyrics rather than being the focal point.
The standout track ‘Violet Dream ft Haru Su’ gives me the impression that the band is capable of more, but as it stands Awakening, for me at least, felt a little under developed as an album. SKOI are not a band to sit still or repeat themselves however, so we will have to see where they go from here.
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