REVIEW: Illuminaut — Self Titled (EP)
Percussion is hunting us down like wild animals in “Two Wolves.” Whispering melodic verses that quickly transform into mountain-moving, beat-driving forces to be reckoned with in “Native Alien.” Ushering forth lush harmonies capable of ripping through anything at the right volume in “The Grey” and “Dead Messenger.” In their new EP, titled simply Illuminaut, the Californian duo known as Illuminaut deliver one crushing blow to the mainstream mundane after another in what feels like one of the most important progressive rock debuts of the past few months, and while theirs is a much lighter version of the intricately-wound genre, it’s got a crossover appeal that has critics and fans abuzz around the country right now.
It’s not just that Illuminaut is daring to be different at a time where assimilation in pop music has never been so trendy, but that they’re doing what a lot of other musicians in the Los Angeles underground haven’t been willing to — experimenting, evolving inside of a single song, and even incorporating indulgences that would be enough for anyone in the minimalist movement to lost their minds across a lengthy Twitter thread. They mean business, and you can tell as much from the start of this tracklist.
As a ’90s kid who grew up on the Palm Desert scene, I feel a lot of the same interest in neo-psychedelia and the fundamentals of My War-era Black Flag living in the bones of a song like “Dead Messenger,” but these influences don’t dictate the cosmetic strengths of the piece. Truthfully, the surface level elements in both this track and “Two Wolves” or “Native Alien” are the only purely progressive attributes in this EP; everywhere else we look is an amalgamation of punk, metal, and classic rock concepts that have been reimagined as if to please a Gen Z audience desperate for any sort of detail-oriented rock n’ roll in 2022.
The guitars are mixed to be squeaky clean but not bleached of their color, and it’s pretty obvious — at least to me — that an overambitious attitude was not present in the recording studio when they were figuring out what material they wanted to put down and how they wanted to go about doing it. Self-control is so underrated these days, and it’s something this band is using to their advantage rather brilliantly.
I’m not usually the biggest fan of progressive music for myriad reasons, but when it comes down to it, it’s rather hard to be a rock aficionado and not appreciate the depth of compositional skill and performance value of what Illuminaut have assembled for us in this eponymous EP. There will always be detractors of the campier elements within this genre, but for the most part, these elements just aren’t present (enough, at least) to really make a mark on the music we’re listening to in this record. Mammoth volume and creative wit of the most sincere strain come together to make Illuminaut a real winner in my book, and I’ll be interested in seeing where this pair goes next.