Alias and Ehren show some brotherly love on Lillian
Published: Friday, May 27, 2005
Updated: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 20:07
Sharing the brotherly trait of looking disinterested while being photographed, Alias and Ehren have created a stunning work of art with Lillian.
Growing up as an only child in the desolate wilderness of Southern Oregon, I've made a conscious effort to avoid the stereotypes of the spoiled, selfish, egotistical single child that have followed me like a shadow, only to realize that the glaring imperfections that we so desperately try to mask, ultimately make us who we are.
I never really wanted a sibling, there's something special about the exclusive relationship I carry with my parents, but there's a lot to be said about the strength and bond of brothers.
Case in point -- Alias and Ehren.
The story is simple: Alias, the uncanny Anticon producer, releases his sophomore album, Muted, in 2003. His younger brother Ehren hears it and phones his brother.
Shortly thereafter, Ehren finds himself in Alias's hometown of Oakland, Calif., flute, alto sax, soprano sax and clarinet in tow, ready to make an album.
Using some basic tracks recorded in advance, the two brothers began improvising on each other's style, each crafting their performance based on the other's respective musicianship.
Then, they hit the record button and Lillian was born.
The result is unique, to say the least. The juxtaposition between Alias's beats and arrangement and Ehren's off-kilter utilization of woodwind instruments creates an inviting atmosphere. Named and inspired by their grandmother, Lillian is warm and entrancing.
While Ehren may not have enough label projects under his belt to give him any sort of underground cred, his bloodline certainly does. Alias's rap sheet of collaborations reads like a "good music for dummies" starter guide. Working directly with Sage Francis, Will Oldham, Saul Williams, Slug, DJ Krush, Ben Gibbard, Styrofoam, the Notwist and Lali Puna, Alias has also shared the stage with such epic acts as The Roots, Dalek, Kid 606, Xiu Xiu, American Analog set, The Notwist, The Beatnuts and Fog. With these stats, Ehren is almost instantly cool by proxy alone.
Opening with "Eman Ruosis Iht," Lillian instantly feels like another Alias affair. Ethereal keyboards and unintelligible vocoder build and build until the thundering drums kick in. With the help of Ehren and his amazing knack for melody, the song quickly shifts from Alias's unmistakable style into something completely new.
"Misc Stomp" is one of the more instantly accessible tracks on the album. Ehren and Alias trade the focus back and forth. It's tough to say who is leading the track, but that's part of the magic of such an outstanding collaboration.
It's difficult to take any individual track and fully appreciate it in isolation. As a whole, the album flows together quite nicely, creating a warm, welcoming, unified atmosphere.
Mixing Alias's trademarks of warm distortion, crisp drum cuts, glitch-ridden percussion and synth fills with Ehren's extensive background in jazz, Lillian is wonderful.
What sets Alias apart from so many other sample jockeys is his conscious choice to stray away from simply layering beats with triggered samples. Taking a leap of faith, Alias utilizes live instrumentation and amazingly precise orchestration. His production sounds like a real song, as opposed to the sample-based rut that much of the mainstream has fallen into.
The album standout, "Most Important Things," is by far one of the most enthralling songs on the album. The production is near perfect, Alias weaves a beat around cut-up-drums and crisp rimshot glitches while Ehren ties it up nicely with his layered, captivating melodies.
At this point in my life, I doubt I'll ever experience the brotherly bond that's eluded me for most of my life, but with Lillian, at least I can admire the kinship of Alias and Ehren, two extremely talented brothers.
Eric Feigner, Diversions editor