EP REVIEW: The Illness – ‘Descending’/’Phrases Redacted’: alt rock gets the tronica feels on cassette

HERE at Backseat Mafia, we’re really quite fond of The Illness.

No, god, not that one – not the year-destroying one; we’re talking the Transpennine band who’ve been something of an in-house Wrecking Crew for York’s Sea Records, and who finally got their name up on their own 12”, “Descending”/”Phrases Redacted” back in July.

We took a look at both tracks: and both featured US alt.rock royalty on vocal duties. The A, “Descending”, saw Pavement’s Steve West lay down some lyrical magic transatlantically; we called it a “lovely, careworn slab of guitar aceness”.

It was Silver Jews’ man Bob Nastanovich who came in to give something weirder to the flip, “Phrases Redacted”: he free-associated, let it flow. Delighted at the freakiness, we commented: “Bob’s redacted phrases come across as a just barely reified internal dialogue, fractured narrative, internal philosophical and immediate circumstantial ones brewed up together across six minutes of guitar propulsion: “Open the window, cos uh … Guys, we’re not turning on the interior lights bro, sorry”. 

It was cool. “One of my records of the year,” said Marc Riley. Need any further recommendations?

Where next? Well The Illness have decided to hand over the brace of tracks for a quartet of electronic reinterpretations, which Sea Records are releasing digitally and on limited edition cassette – it’s out today, here.

London-based Stuck Sunsets gets his paws on both tracks. For “Descending” he takes Steve’s ennui-filled vocal line and marries it to eerie, offworld synth tones and a forceful snare march; imagine, if you will, Mark Lanegan adrift like Major Tom, looking back at planet Earth.

His take on “Phrases Redacted” pulls an already pretty freakish slice of aural tickling in a more Mancunian direction: he chops about Bob Nastonovich’s vocal line, finding the rant, finding the mantra. There’s moments when you can hear the Mark E Smith of “Win Fall CD 2088 AD”; there’s this blurry funk blare right back behind which sounds like ACR through a Mad Professor filter bank. He’s had a lot of fun.

Leeds’ Game_Program also takes on the surreality of “Phrases Redacted” and runs it into declamatory 8-bit acid groove, with little tugs of feedback, spacey rave synth washes. It’s catchy and oddball. That’s a good combo. Have a listen, why not? We’ve embedded it for you.

To round things up, S T A P Y L T O N take “Descending” and leave more of the original in, capitalising on that cracker of an alt.rock riff, making for an (almost) New Order indie-dance vibe, but pushed further into a ‘79/’80 low-rent synth aesthetic.

You love a cassette? Well this set of quirky deconstructions can be yours, today. The to-buy link is up above.

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