Ill Ease

Ill Ease

Live at the Holiday Sin


I can’t explain why it’s taken me six months to review this. It’s not for lack of familiarity — I still play this start to finish every few weeks, something that’s difficult to do in the Ink 19 torrent of review materials. And it’s not for lack of trying — this is my third (and hopefully final) attempt to wrap some words around Ill Ease’s strange angularity.

As the band’s name may evoke, this is not an album of comfortable music. Very little happiness is to be found, and neither does it offer a mind-numbing hypnotic drum beat and keyboard wash. Ill Ease sit alongside bands like The Velvet Underground and The Pixies, where the music sounds somewhat wrong but feels so right. Elizabeth Sharp’s voice is a chilling musical whisper, floating a couple of inches from your ears. Drums (also by Sharp) are gently rattled and tapped, rather than hit, and use startling, somewhat lopsided patterns to great effect. Guitars (Sharp, again) are often woozy and bluesy, falling into circular riffing drones that make me think of early Boss Hogg on ‘ludes. Other times, they’re like a cheap saw blade ripping through pressure-treated timber. Bass (guess who?) is aggressive on the bottom end but loose and plucky on the top. It’s music that sounds like the not-so-calm right before the storm, the point at which things are obviously unhinged but the knives still haven’t started flying.

So given all of that, what do we have? “Dear Krazy,” an insistent, low-slung number with a screeching guitar break that’s topped off by spectacular drum riffing. “Jackie On Acid” has some tattered organ (my guess: Sharp) placidly suspended above a perpetual drum fill, plucky bass, and more chainsaw guitar. “Yr. Corporate Sponsor” pulls no punches, as Sharp acidly intones “rock and roll sells cars and don’t you forget it” while a stumbly but perfectly synchronized riff between bass, guitar and drums makes me feel like maybe I should have taken the recommended dose after all. Mind you, above all this music mayhem is Sharp’s voice tickling your ear, with dirty girl sighs like “I should have fucked you when I met you” and “let’s play babysitter … I’ll only take off my panties if you take off your underwear.” Ill Ease, indeed.

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