Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)
The mysterious and elusive The Ilk follow their seasonal Halloween and Festive EPs (and full length magnum opus and one of this listener’s favourites of 2014 'The New Dark Age') with the ‘Drei-Osterei’ EP, just in time for Ēostre, Easter or Ostara, or whichever particular Equinox you celebrate. And, like its sister EPs, it is a veritable delight of prog-infused psych and folk, complete with the dark shadowy corners and odd angles so masterfully delivered by previous outings. In short, there is something very special indeed about The Ilk.
Opener 'Spring Surprise' is a dark but sprightly piano and harpsichord led 'John Barry meets Wicker Man' piece of psychedelic prog. Female backing vocals merge with squelching synths, organ and wailing analogue sound effects to create a kind of Swinging London goes rural horror vibe (think of British Hammer style flick ‘Crucible of Terror’). It is mind-blowingly good, no-one else does what the Ilk do and do so well. Next 'Jabberwocky' combines a child's recitation of Lewis Carroll’s famous poem with a folky and Floydian organ, acoustic guitar, Caravan style Canterbury keyboards (there is something of both Pye Hastings' band and Kevin Ayers about The Ilk) and creeping, howling guitars that add a shiver to the rustic warmth of the track. This is wyrd in the proper sense of the word; truly uncanny and unearthly. Final track, 'At The Place Of The Skull' utilises melancholy vintage keyboard loops and drones to create an air of tension and dystopian dread before an acoustic refrain enters to add a bucolic aura, vast swarms of electric guitars then joining the procession. Finally a choir of mellotron and strings reprises the central melody, creating a truly epic conclusion.
There are more ideas on this one EP than most bands manage in their entire careers. If you haven't heard any of the previous EPs or the incredible ‘The New Dark Age’ then I urge you to do so now but first, compliments of the season, welcome the first rites of spring with ‘Drei-Ostrei’.
Available now for a small sum on bandcamp.