Review: Ill Professor - Wire & Air
The Chicago based band Zelienople have always appeared to me as an overlooked, always a little under the radar musical mystery (and a gem) of the 2000’s. Their combination of drone music, slowcore and dusted, slow jazz gave psychedelia a new meaning; full of dark corners and foggy mazes - perfect listening for the more introspective, melancholic moments. The band enhanced this image of mystery and melancholy through their black-and-white, often blurry, album artworks.
Ill Professor is not very different - this side-projects sees two thirds of Zelienople combining forces. Brian Harding works with Matt Christensen here, evoking the ghostly spirit of Zelienople, expect in a less song-like, “fully grown” way, but rather as a set of anti-studio, bedroom-friendly sketches and lo-fi loner ballads bordering on ambient and drone music rather than the jazzy, slowish psychedelia of the full band. If the cover photograph is any indication, no explosions of joy or moments of sudden energy are expected to happen here: it’s a slow, lethargic ride through that strange mid-state between waking life and dream world, where everything seems strangely real, yet blurry and heard as if it were a mile away; the highway here would be the smeared guitar ballad “Slate Line”, the piece most similar to Zelienople in its full line-up, with the string plucking leaving distant echoes, pregnant with melancholy. There are moments of slo-mo narcotic bliss, like in the ambient-ladden super slow “Saturday End of September”.
Everything here is in sepia. Everything is a remnant of an emotion or an event that happened a long time ago, maybe even in the previous life. Zelienople (and Ill Professor, naturally) have built their trademark sound as an attempt to capture those small, fleeing emotions or to give a new life to the scraps of memory hidden deep in the unconscious until now. It’s a bit clashing that an album like “Wire & Air” gets released in the Spring - because it seems like a perfect late autumn listening album. When everything around comes to life, these guys want to cover everything in snow, with only small bits of life remaining, but remaining on the verge of falling into hibernation. It’s almost painfully introvertic and inner-self gazing music, but it works. It bears a load of emotions. When the cold, rainy autumn days come in a few months, I’ll remember what to listen to.