Electric iLL - Twisted Light
Record Label: Amore! Phonics
Release Date: April 8, 2015
Kevin Robinson is not one for idle time. After making a name for himself with the critically acclaimed indie rock band Viva Voce, he went the opposite direction and crafted a homespun folk record with friends under the moniker Blue Giant. But those two endeavors were not satiating enough, so he dabbled in another folk project, appearing as a sideman for the female trio Calico Rose. Robinson also has an effort that goes by the name The Robinsons. And now enter a fifth project: Electric iLL. For their debut EP Twisted Light, Robinson takes the stage name Kaylee Robb and teams up with Portland singer-songwriter Ragen Fykes, who lends her vocals to each of the five songs.
If Twisted Light serves any purpose at all, it serves as a coronation for the under-the-radar Fykes. Ostensibly an electric-tinged dance project, the album opens with "Unknown Trail," a hazy, drug-induced slab of psychedelia that is equal parts Laurel Canyon, 70s AM Radio, disco and soul. If that sounds like your wheelhouse, then take a step forward and enjoy. "Another Bad Man" is synth goodness that allows Fykes to take center stage. The only issue with the song is that there is a lo-fi and raw element to it, almost to suggest that the song was written in ten minutes and recorded in five.
Arguably the most accessible of the five is "Rock For You," which comes across more as a study in how much Robinson can bend his sonic palate and/or craft a genuine, straight-up dance record. Anyone looking for something that will make a serious or thought-provoking need look elsewhere. Easily the best song on the bunch is the illuminating "Hold My Head High," which has a definite 70s vibe and a core that is thick with soul, swagger and polish. On the heels of the vintage "Hold My Head High" is the equally retro "Goodbye to the Old Life," which might be more commercial than "Rock For You" and has far more staying power.
In the end, the spotlight is Fykes' and she handles the task with aplomb. Her engaging vocals sit atop sonic beds of funk, New Wave and dance and never once is the result alienating or overbearing. Though Fykes is indubitably aided by a Vocoder throughout, never once is the output uncomfortable or gimmicky. Whether the credit goes to Robinson, Fkyes or the two of them combined, one thing is for certain, Twisted Light will get people talking.