The reemergence of psychedelic influences in popular music started back in the mid-2000s and got a heady second wind in the late 2010s, and now, it’s bringing forth a new era in provocative alternative rock and hip-hop that a lot of critics simply didn’t see coming. Illuminaut’s crafty, cerebral progressive sound is perhaps the perfect example of what the appropriated aesthetic can produce in ideal circumstances, and their debut eponymous EP is the best way to get introduced to it. Attracting significant press attention since it first dropped back in November, Illuminaut is a four-track epicenter of emotionality as translated through bludgeoning riffs and complicated grooves, the likes of which you just aren’t going to find a whole lot of when browsing the FM dial.
The lyrics come alive in “Native Alien” and “Dead Messenger” not through the push of the vocal but through the fragile presentation of each verse, which initially seems to contrast with the construction of both songs (but ironically sounds perfectly paired by the time we hit the halfway mark of either). Illuminaut doesn’t have to be all that elaborate with their poetic statements in this record largely because they’re already communicating so much to us on the instrumental front that to have been more linguistically intense would have been to make their overall look in this EP one of cluttered insistence rather than clandestine strength. They know what they’re trying to make here, and that just can’t be said for every band in their position today.
Adding a splash of synthesizer glory to this tracklist is none other than Uriel Soto Jr., whose masterful contribution helps to make the tonal charismas of “The Grey” and “Two Wolves” all the more compelling. There’s nothing wrong with inviting synthetics into the mix if you’re going to use them the right way, and in collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Ben Taylor, there isn’t a drop of chemistry that goes unutilized by the time we reach the conclusion of the tracklist here. Every good progressive outing is one that’s built on the concept of balance, and this is something I find very hard to argue with when listening to a piece that feels and sounds as complete and straightforward as Illuminaut’s self-titled extended play does.
It might be an aesthetical crossover that lacks the purity of foundation some of the other hot alternative rock records dropping right now contain, but for my taste in indie music, this is an EP that really does its creators justice. This isn’t just heavy rock n’ roll music – it’s sonic brutality with a complicated, intellectual center, and that’s not something I’m able to find a lot of in any genre these days. Whether you’re crediting the diversely artistic California backdrop or just the talent of these two players in their prime, there’s no getting around the potential that their hybrid style is going to have if cultivated in the right manner. They’re off to a swinging start in this performance, and I think you’re going to agree upon hearing this record.
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