(Domino; 2004)

By Dom Sinacola | 25 August 2004

I want to believe that deep within inanimate objects, atomic movement could translate over a grand scale into the total movement of the object. Bottles of detergent could scurry and, as Tom Robbins details, spoons could dawdle. With enough effort, an object could unhinge from its silence and…where would it go? It would return home.

Adem Ilhan, member of Fridge alongside Kieran Hebden (of Four Tet fame), has released his solo first, Homesongs. It begins with “Statued,” a beautifully told glimpse of one couple’s affection under a bruising sky. The moment crawls over the course of four and a half minutes and the silence is thick but patient; there in the ample downtime of the song’s pace, and there is comfort in recognizing that soon the couple will return home.

Homesongs is slow, but its movement is a brilliant design of lonely soul and sifted drone. “Ringing in My Ear” gallops through Cat Stevens’ catalog before hitting a glacial standstill in “Gone Away’s” warm din of chimes and organ. A tiny epiphany comes ‘round with Adem placating a lover: “It’s alright / Everything will be alright.” The lyrics become a rallying call of sorts, speaking of redemption and satisfaction and rest. “Cut” is that sad, tense homecoming—the slumber of a pariah embroiled in dry memories. Slide guitar marvelously warbles all over a desert wind, urging Adem to break from the safe hush in his normal delivery. “Everything You Need” spikes the energy a notch; harmonicas abound, and Adem is able to briefly demonstrate his poppier tendencies.

Yet, the most compelling aspect of Homesongs is in the meticulous dissection of pace. “Pillow,” a cheesy twilight rumination, plays like a lone harp player mimicking the dripping of light down some particularly bland wallpaper. Even though the track is dreadfully boring, Adem still masters its labored gait by adoring each isolated moment. Pulling every sound to its limit, Adem’s debut is glorious in its scope, maintaining a contemplative stride through bare instrumentation. The artist’s willingness to perpetuate simplicity is a spectacular approach, an evocative way to wrench the most from every idea. Yet, this method can become tedious, and such songs as “These Are Your Friends” and “There Will Always Be” end up flat or just plain silly.

And with restraint comes silence, but it is not white noise. It is pure black nothing: a mass as boggling as it is violent, threatening to swallow each of Adem’s sounds. As such, he does sound weakened by the end of Homesongs, overwrought by the journey home, by the effort to dredge up the nerve in every last atom to remember where he belongs.