Ill Lit’s debut album is the sound of driving through West Virginia at night with only the radio to keep you company. The seek button can raise only one station: a fuzzy amalgamation of forgotten back-porch country and modern electronica stitched together with AM talk radio ramblings, white noise and tape hiss.
With each twist and turn of the road, clarity swings from one pole to the other. The opening track “Diner Girls” begins with a thirty-second hip hop beat of puckered kisses before a very slight lo-fi guitar struggles and fails to wrest away control from the increasing electronic instrumentation. Over top of this, a haunted voice croons about aliens and alienation. “Here’s to the Rescue” begins as a straightforward melancholy ballad that creates tension by juxtaposing a jewelry box melody with the sound of guitar strings being tightened past their breaking point.
“Whitewashing” is the true standout track, starting off with a drum loop circa early ’90s Compton that eventually retreats into the mix. Shimmering, reverb-drenched guitars fill the void, coaxing out the Southern drama with lines like “I almost married your sister just so we could be closer.”
When the last third of the album hits and the static fades the band show their true colors. With the quiet, brokenhearted grandeur on “Other People’s Wives” and “I Would be True” there is no doubt that Ill Lit are, as their liner notes declare, “country music.” Even though it isn’t apparent from the beginning, the trip through unknown territory is usually half the fun, isn’t it?