Three years ago, Ilya wouldn't have existed. But now, as San Diego's counterculture continues to get busy, bands like this-which have a sound completely contrary to the peroxide punk and dorky, white-folk ska that area natives grew up around-are popping up everywhere.
But the story here is not that Ilya's sound is all that revolutionary. More so, the surprising part is that it comes from the alumni of San Diego bands like The Dropscience, Longer Than Miles, Pilotram, and Camera Obscura.
Taken in that context, the group's dreamy, jazz-scaped trip hop can be a shock. While their former bands tore through complex, electrocuted riffs, meaty changes and contorted, raw-wire vocals, Ilya is a rainy-day mix of breathy singing over drum 'n' bass spatterings and moody Rhodes piano.
But to hear guitarist Duane Pitre tell it, the band had no specific sound in mind when it recorded its debut CD, Poise is the Greater Architect.
“There were no preconceived ideas,” Pitre said. “I think a lot of it was on a song-by-song basis. I guess we wanted it to sound clean. We weren't shooting for a lo-fi record, y'know?”
Still, preconceived or not, Ilya-which also includes drummer Geoff Hill, bassist John Mattos, and keyboardists-guitarists Matthew Baker and Hank Morton-has a decidedly set style. As one local insider put it, “It's like Black Heart Procession, only with lullabies instead of funeral dirges-and with a girl singer.”
The “girl singer” in question, Blanca Rojas, might impress you with her opiated, baby-Bjork voice, but according to Pitre, she's a relative newcomer to music.
“She's only been singing for about four years. What she did do was a lot of dance. She was part of an African dance troupe that actually got to travel to Africa.”
So, will Ilya be kicking down National Geographic-core Zulu moves for future shows? Maybe a new, ironic danceparty trend for half-bright hipsters?
“No,” says Pitre with a laugh. “But she definitely has unique movements that I've never seen anyone do. She doesn't just do African dance. It's a mix, a conglomeration. It's her own little style, but I really don't know where it comes from.”