Alias Lillian (with

[Anticon; 2005]

Styles: instrumental, hip-hop sample-trained electronica, taxtronica, IDM
Others: Boom Bip, Mum, Fennesz, cLOUDDEAD, Why?, The Postal Service

Music has always seemed to profit from family affairs, especially when siblings are involved. Whether it's the Bee Gees, Mum, the Stooges, the Meat Puppets, or the Osmounds, siblings compliment one another in the studio in a way non-familial collaborators can't (excluding the Osmounds from this point forward). Blood (we're talking lineage here, not the amount shed -- disregard the Stooges from this point forward) apparently aids in the creative process, and for the brothers Whitney, that bloodline traces back to grandmother Lillian. Titled in honor of their grandmother, a vital ancestor to the musically-gifted Whitney family, Brendon (Alias) and younger brother Ehren salute their forebear by showcasing their own expertise. The Whitneys' family tradition of music, passed down through generations like a top dresser drawer heirloom, has landed in the laps of Alias and Ehren.

The songs on Lillian range from passive atmospherics to more eventful compositions -- the latter of which is the case with a track like "Misc Stomp." A drum break emerges out of some dismal, chilled electronic cellar to add life, as well as surprise, to the track. The thud and grumble of a drum break proves Alias still keeps a tight hold on where he's come from as a producer. There is restraint in this music -- patience that is rewarded by the occasional sudden push, the push sometimes coming from frigid percussion and sometimes coming from an unveiled melody. The songs sound like the North East feels, matching the photographs in the album layout -- it's all slightly blurred, biting, and gently raw.

Rather than getting into the age-old electronica music hot/cold debate, let's just say Ehren's contributions supply a truly organic flair to the music. Ehren arrived in Oakland draped with instrument luggage -- alto sax, soprano sax, flute, and clarinet. The young and naturally-gifted multi-instrumentalist set to work adding serene and tasteful panache to his older brother's already-laid groundwork.

All the songs on Lillian segue cleanly, sneaking up on and culminating with the soothing and compassionate final track, "Netting Applause," where the brothers do just that. The clapping hands of their audience demand an encore and receive one in due time with the haunted hidden track, where we hear from the inspirational Lillian for the first and only time. The song seeps deep, leaving the listener with the vision of an empty parlor, decked out in bric-a-brac, wood-framed family photographs, and forsaken oil lamps. Alias and Ehren compliment their late grandmother wonderfully, in terms of both sound and technique. They seem to be sharing the parlor room, shoulder-to-shoulder in an after-dinner melody. They don't sound decades apart, only a microphone's length.

With the release of Lillian, we can now see the Eyes Closed EP and Muted as transitional albums. Alias was taking a risk in moving away from the vinyl-sampling methods and style he honed so well. This isn't to say the aforementioned electronic-based projects leading up to Lillian were by any means trivial or weak, but they should be observed as stages of development leading to this current example of Alias' capabilities. He's shown he won't be limited by specific genre's customs or tactics. Ehren's part in attaining this milestone is subject to debate, but his contributions can not be overlooked. The visit from Ehren seemed to be just the company Alias needed to become comfortable in his new setting.

1. eman ruosis iht
2. Back and Forth
3. Lillian
4. Sunfuzz
5. Misc Stomp
6. Ladders
7. Blurry Edges
8. 52nd & West
9. Most Important Things
10. Moonfuzz
11. Narrowed Iris
12. Cobblestoned Waltz
13. Netting Applause