Illyah Kuryahkin Count No Count

[Arena Rock; 1996]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: low key psych-pop, acid folk, dream pop
Others: Six Organs of Admittance, early Califone, Cocteau Twins

Why so ignored? I got to know! When pointless shit like Ada or Patrick Wolf are held up by the indie press like the next beacons in innovative, exciting pop music, I don't see what makes Illyah Kuryahkin so unmentionable. I may not go to his music on a day-to-day (or hell, even week-to-week) basis, but as I listen now, I'm no less reeled in than I was the first time I heard the song "Crow" on a CMJ sampler. These comps were a big part of my exposure to different sounds back when there was little else for me but whatever 120 Minutes decided to serve up in terms of interesting music alternatives. "Crow" burned its way into my psyche. I'd never heard anything like it.

And it took me a damn long time to find this album, but it was worth the wait. I can confidently say, some years later, this record is an undiminished treat of understated, poignantly distorted trance. Some of the elements are perhaps familiar; fuxzy guitars, phased, incidental ambience and blues, but they are strung together for a listening experience unlike any other. The percussion is largely up-front recorded hand drums and shakers, while Illyah mastermind Dean Wilson's singing is airy yet muffled. The vocals may be what gives some listeners pause. I'm somewhat taken with them, but their harshly whispered tones might be grating for some ears.

There is no shortage of "acquired taste" acts that've come and gone, but I feel this one has been unfairly ignored. Considering that Six Organs of Admittance are receiving significant attention, I'd like to steer fans of Ben Chasny's rough hewn, eastern-tinged explorations to Count No Count. There is a similar fascination with fret board-scrape/choked string textures on display, particularly on the slow burning "Empire."

While not exactly classic, the music on this CD is certainly singular. And if you're susceptible to contemplative, orange sunset acid-folk, you won't regret picking this up. It's mysterious and melodically rich, though some of the lyrics may leave something to be desired. I don't know what Wilson is doing now, but it's a shame he didn't get the recognition he deserved for making some of the most intriguing sounds of the past decade. Despite a seven-minute truth-in-advertising bit of nothing called "Fuzzball," those listeners with adventurous tastes can do no wrong in picking this dense wonder of an album up.

1. Romeo
2. Marooned
3. What You Did Say
4. Bulletproof
5. Empire
6. Sundial
7. Fool
8. Novocain
9. Fuzzball
10. Ballade
11. Crow
12. Waltz
13. Daddy
14. Marble

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