Ilya Get Back to Where They Weren’t Before

Fathoms Deep is the latest release from Bristol’s Ilya, a duo comprised of vocalist Joanna Swan and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Nick Pullin. You may only know them from a song-snippet featured in some perfume adverts, but they’ve spent the last few years assembling a body of work that represents one of the most fascinating discographies this decade has to offer.

Their 2004 debut They Died For Beauty was one of those embarrassments of riches that seemed to have arrived fully-formed from another, saner dimension where inventive, innovative, insane music was the norm. Of course, it wasn’t really some kind of sui generis miracle; Joanna and Nick had been slogging away in the trenches for years. It wasn’t so much that their music attained perfection in 2004, more that their sound at that point in time dovetailed with the zeitgeist and the aspirations of a slowly expiring music biz.

The cynical thing to do after that would have been to keep on churning out more of the same; there would probably have been more than a few satisfied customers. But that’s not the way Ilya work. After the almost overpowering lushness of They Died For Beauty, they followed it up with the sublime Somerset - a record that retained the cinematic swoosh of their John Barry and Ennio Morricone devotionals, but which introduced harsher, darker elements into the mix. The standout track “Winter in Vienna” began as richly as would be expected, but then slid into territory first staked out by Holger Czukay’s shortwave dalliances and finally ended up dangerously close to something by This Heat, England’s finest exponents of post-prog, post-punk, quasi-kraut anti-commerciality. And Ilya managed all this without losing sight of the epic post-rock universality they’d staked out with their first album.

But two albums in a row with some kind of coherent stylistic feel was clearly making things too easy for the punters, so their next step was to release the manicured howl of rage entitled Hootchi Coochi. Attributed to Jo Swan, it was an Ilya album in all but name and, just to keep everyone off-balance, contained a bona-fide pop/R&B gem called “Play With Me”. The next logical step was obviously to follow that up with the banjo and bouzouki weirdness of Carving Heads On Cherry Stones - a record so haunting and gossamer-like that it should probably only be available on prescription. (Although its opening track “Prairie Dogs” is indisputably the best song to be written in cod-Esperanto since the Beatles’ Sun King.)

And so here we are with Fathoms Deep, their fourth (or fifth) album, and which is very much a return to roots - Ilya's Get Back, if you will.

Except Ilya was always a studio project - the brainchild of two people - and there never was a live band as such. But even so, the concept behind Fathoms Deep is still a back-to-basics one. The idea was very neat: to assemble a core group of excellent musicians in one of Britain’s last remaining high-level studios, present them with the material there and then, and to record the results immediately. It’s your basic 180 degree volte-face from their earlier, meticulously manicured albums; an escape from the endless tweaking of recording on computers and getting back to the way people did it in the olden days. So how did it turn out?

Well, it turns out that - amidst recurrent themes of birds, water, seabirds and drowning - Ilya have produced a record that is, of course, entirely different from their previous albums but which has very clear callbacks to all of them. In fact, when you look at their body of work as a whole, there is a remarkable consistency; dragging all their stuff into a playlist and hitting shuffle doesn’t make Fathoms and Cherry Stones sound weird so much as it reveals the twisted sensibility at the heart of their seemingly sweet earlier albums. Ilya have always been about darkness and sugar.

Of course, the one element that consistently holds their obsessive eclecticism together is the almost frighteningly transcendent voice of Joanna Swan; rarely has one person been able to channel so many sounds and personalities in one set of pipes. Her one consistent attribute is that her voice gets better and better with each release. By now, seasoned Ilya listeners can expect that when hypnotized by her ethereal angelic register, they will shortly be sucker-punched by a sudden switch to a gargantuan blues howl. But I must confess - the first time I heard the ending of “20 Fathoms Deep”, I felt afraid. Jim Morrison’s “Horse Latitudes” is a playground ditty compared to the kraken she unleashes on the coda.

Perhaps the most intriguing thing about Fathoms Deep is its insistence on using only piano and Hammond organ in the keys department. Ilya’s vast repository of influences combined with the ubiquity of the Hammond in sixties music means that, for music nerds at least, a single song can be a juddering travelogue through multiple genres and epochs - because the Hammond can mean many things. But ever since the Crazy World of Arthur Brown released “Fire” in 1968 - at that point, the heaviest record imaginable, and one which was made without recourse to the guitar - the Hammond in rock has meant one thing above all else: prog.

So if Ilya have released an album that, while not exactly prog, certainly doesn’t shy away from it, does that mean they have gone off the deep-end once and for all? Or does it mean that they’ve craftily noticed that, in the 21st Century, prog is more popular in Britain than at any time since 1976?

Neither. It simply means that they are, as always, following the dictates of their own muse. This is no more a prog album than it’s a John Barry soundtrack from the sixties; they’re just adding ever more ingredients to the Ilya gumbo. No longer a mere embarrassment of riches, we are now into a full-fledged supernova of reference points.

For example: the ineffably gorgeous “On Vauxhall Bridge” (which may or may not be about suicide, but which certainly does deal with water and burial) is enough of a Cubano-style toe-tapper to instantly evoke images of dapper old folks dancing close in the zócalo on a warm summer’s evening. Dan Moore’s piano is quite lovely, while the infectious “Quizás, Quizás, Quizás” rhythms - and Joanna’s exuberant vocal - more than undercut the desperation of the lyric. And Nick’s closing splice of Marc Ribot and George Harrison works rather nicely as well.

“Lean Down” is another stand-out track, perhaps something of a stripped-down callback to They Died For Beauty. The intro alone is breathtaking, more or less a live performance from the core duo, with Nick’s arpeggiated guitar backing up Joanna’s heartbreaking whispered vocal. Haunting, yes, but very, very pretty.

So naturally, we also have to have stuff like “Falcondale” in here as well. Right from the start of this one, Nick’s spider-web guitar lets you know you’re back in Cherry Stone territory - even if he’s not actually playing a bouzouki, you feel like there’s one in there. And, like so many songs on Fathoms Deep, it’s built around circular triplet patterns, like so many hummingbirds whirring around in your head. Or should that be falcons?

All this and a baritone sax that - dexterously combined with the low-end of the Hammond - shoves the song sharply into the strange world of Albert Marcoeur, until the organ takes over and kicks us into the page-boy haircutted world of The Nice. But only for a little while, mind. Our next stop is in Stevie Smith/This Heat territory, as it seems that we are decidedly not waving and quite probably drowning. Until the halfway mark, that is, when Joanna’s storm-petrel vocal comes skipping over the waves, a reverse siren that pulls us out of the endless deep. It seems that Ilya are neither waving nor drowning but dancing round the maypole. And have somehow managed to condense “A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers” into less than six minutes.

Another standout track is “Little Lamb”, a sweet, frail, blue little thing that evokes the late, great Johnny Ace’s posthumous 1955 hit “Pledging My Love” - as used on the soundtrack of Abel Ferrara’s midnight-black Bad Lieutenant, naturally. Joanna’s distant, glacial vocal is perfectly offset against Nick’s bizarro Ron Grainer guitar and a chord progression that occasionally shines on like some kind of diamond. It may be the way that, for some reason, this song is now inextricably linked in my mind with Abel Ferrera but - given Ilya’s longstanding obsession with John Barry - the only conclusion I can draw from this song is that James Bond is now a toothless Appalachian smackhead.

But that would be too easy wouldn’t it? The coda lurches abruptly to Jimmy Smith/Djangoworld, Joanna switches to her megafaunic voice, and the go-go girls start it up in their white plastic boots. Bonkers, in the best possible sense of the word.

“All I Got” is perhaps the album’s most perfect song; it drifts into view amid Harold Buddy piano and backwards guitars, like some unjustly forgotten outtake from Side 2 of Before and After Science. The lyrics once more deal with bitterness and regret, but the utter beauty of the music and vocal make it the sweetest of bitter pills. Quite perfect, in fact.

Review by Bill Stair ****************************************


A Beautiful Fluency

I remain, at 44, happier than ever that I never outgrew my need for music to be transcendent. I’m quite confident that there will always be in me a willingness to supplicate myself to any bit of music that enters the mind like religion, the heart like a first love, the bloodstream like opium.

In 2004, UK band Ilya released its astonishing debut album They Died for Beauty, a sprawling canvas of Morricone, Portishead, Ferry, Bowie, and Piaf. On the heels of that album they had the great good fortune of having their song “Bellissimo” picked up by Revlon to be used for its international ad campaign. That song was arresting and sensuous and made commercials better than the shows they were supporting. In 2006, Ilya returned with an even stronger album, Somerset. The Morricone soundscape was largely gone, the songs moving interior, into the darker and moodier landscape of the heart at night.

Now, three years later comes the haunting yet ultimately baffling Carving Heads on Cherry Stones. What has always made Ilya a stand-up-and-take-notice duo has been the voice of Joanna Swan, quite frankly the single greatest voice ever heard outside of Edith Piaf. The range is dynamically emotional: she can go operatic a la Maria Callas, can gruff a la Amy Winehouse, can glide a la Ella Fitzgerald, can emote a la Shirley Horn and she can inflect a la Dusty Springfield. To put any of Swan’s vocals on earphones is to understand the sublime agony of what saints have claimed to hear for centuries. Often, as with Somerset‘s “Airborne,” the vocal can match up a lyric with utterly seductive success: “Like chocolate seeping through my veins.” That combination of vocal prowess and lyrical mystery is a recipe that shouldn’t have been messed with. But Ilya is not a duo content to continue mining the same ground. And so this time around, Swan experiments with singing most of the songs in a made-up language. For me it seems a tad arrogant, like the indisputable high school beauty wearing headgear to school when the orthodontist told her she only needs to wear a retainer at night. But then again, I am not one to know how tiresome—how much of an albatross—one’s own beauty can be. I only know that to accord it anything less than it deserves seems selfish to those on the other side of it. And in terms of the overall merits of this album, it is a curious move.

This doesn’t mean the album is a bust; far from it. Songs like “Prairie Dogs,” “Haunting,” and “Soto,” are elegant gems whose sparkles are buried deep in the stone. There are also tracks like “The Color Coral” where the song detours midway through from a Joni Mitchell flower offered from a “talented” but broke 16-year-old to her grandmother at Christmas, before morphing into a shimmering nightmare last seen/heard in Kate Bush’s 1982 “The Dreming.” As Swan’s voice attempts to resolve the competing sides of the same song, the voice is so thinly muscular that the contradiction hurts the teeth and makes the heart unstable. But the dissolve of the lyric into mishmash as the song moves on prevents me from running into the streets, iPod in hand, accosting strangers, putting the headphones around their ears, holding their frames steady as they listen to the only religion one might ever need. I’d spent a lot of time with an advance copy of this album this past summer in Haiti and I found that its darker moments had a kindred home there in those Voodoo nights: frightening and dark places one sometimes feels compelled to dash toward instead of away from.

But there are also tracks like “Geranium” and “Collide” which seem like new psalms taught at an alternative church. Several of these tracks seem unprepared for the public arena, as if I had violatingly stumbled upon them and had not had them presented to me. And then there is “River of Light” a song I have no intention of ever listening to again. A song that seems all the proof necessary that Peter Gabriel, Mickey Hart, David Byrne and Paul Simon should invoke the Fifth Amendment when asked to take “credit” for the integration of World Music.

Years after the Chernobyl disaster, opera and classical music was piped throughout the vacated towns so that workers wouldn’t lose their minds cleaning up a town of empty playgrounds and frozen swingsets. School buses posed in forever-angles of parked ballet. In just three albums Swan and partner Nick Pullin have managed to create such a beautifully dangerous sound all their own that one could imagine never having to need Novocain at a dentist’s office if the Ilya sound were piped into your head while you slept the night before the appointment. You would wake to a world never more frightening than the places you’d voyaged to in the night. And at the same time, night would become that drug you return to even during the day. This is never more obvious than on the song “Spring.” It is autumnal, gorgeous, and pastoral, and the fact that Swan seems to sing not a single word of a real language is, in this case, a blessing, because I might never have otherwise left the swirling nirvana of that glorious distraction in order to rejoin the real world.

Carving Heads on Cherry Stones is that rare thing, a real experiment by a band that seems to not be hiding any ulterior sales-motive behind its choices. For all the acts that Ilya is often compared to (Portishead, Goldfrapp, M83) I can’t imagine another band willing to expose itself so bare and vulnerable. Though there is no single defining moment on this album (They Died for Beauty and Somerset are chock full of stunner after masterpiece after stunner), there are several moments that make you hopeful and impatient for the next direction Swan and Pullin waltz you toward.

– Thomas Cooney



Review by Jack Foley / Indie London

ILYA are comprised of Joanna Swan and Nick Pullin and they specialize in deeply laidback music that recalls the vocal brilliance of Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald and Dusty Springfield.

The main reason for seeking it out - given its Internet-only release - is the astonishing beauty of Swan's classic vocals, which really take on a melt in the mouth quality, whether set against the jazz style of old New Orleans or classic prog rock guitar.

Ilya are, of course, previously known for their critically-acclaimed debut album, They Died For Beauty, which spawned the single Bellissimo that has subsequently featured prominently on world-wide advertising campaigns by both Revlon and Cacharel.

Their second album, Somerset builds on the success of that debut, drawing on many classic styles that seek to ring the maximum effect out of those breathy, dreamy vocals.

There are times when you can imagine their music providing a fitting backdrop to some of the European adventures of Sean Connery's '60s-based 007, or set against the smoky bar scene of high-society Paris, such is the rich imagery that is conjured from their music-making (and that's not bad for an outfit from Bristol!).

Some of the tracks are more of an acquired taste than others, yet there is absolutely no denying the distinctive quality of those vocals that ensure Ilya defy comparisons with anyone contemporary.

Opening track September Rendezvous kicks things off in sultry fashion, providing a dark jazz backdrop for Swan's vocals to seduce you, while there are some more sunshine melodies surrounding the follow-up In The Valley that recall the breezy style of California Dreamin'.

There's an altogether rockier feel attached to the lively Falling Everywhere, with its foot-stomping bursts of guitar and grittier vocal style. It gives way into a genuinely catchy chorus that invites a sing-along to emerge as one of the album's brightest moments.

There's more electric guitar on the tender, piano-based Wonderful, a dreamy love song that builds slowly with verses such as 'if I lose everything I have, if I break apart so easily, will you always be wonderful', before giving way into a beautifully intoxicating chorus that abounds with hope.

Airborne drifts blissfully back into the jazz era, slowing things down a notch and delivering another set of vocals to drool over, while there's a happy go-lucky, folksy appeal to We Shone, with its cute melodies and generally warm glow.

The rest of the album continues in similarly expressive fashion, with tracks like Glory providing a shuffling style and vocals that hint at the deep, husky tones of Bassey. It's in stark contrast to the slower, more deliberate final tracks Sleepwalking and Still You Can't Say No that ease the album to its close in meticulous, slow-building style (the latter, especially, becomes a powerfully emotional listen).

It means that Somerset is an amazing listen that really does catch you off-guard with its ability to be different. Those that seek it out from Universal Digital won't be disappointed.


Ilya are Bristol based duo Joanna Swan and Nick Pullin, and 'Somerset' is their second album, which hopes to build upon the success and massive critical acclaim of their 2004 debut, 'They Died for Beauty'.

Many different styles are incorporated into this album, with no two tracks sounding quite the same. 'September Rendezvous' opens with Swan's deep, husky vocals; a muffled, muted electric guitar screams quietly behind the trippy, midnight feel of the dark, laid-back Jazz vibe, while the second track, 'In the Valley', goes down a more guitar-orientated route, with deep, elegant contemporary folk vocals almost reminiscent of later Joni Mitchell. Until this stage the tracks err on the side of smoldering background music, full of warm melodies, but 'Falling Everywhere' shocks slightly with its punchy swagger, big vocal chorus and a catchier, stomping melody, before breaking down into funky finger-clicking rhythms.

'Airborne' returns to the more echoing, laid-back jazz sound of earlier tracks, with hot trumpet and a melody that floats in the air while the vocals envelop you with their velvety tones. Meanwhile, 'We Shone' shifts again to a more up-tempo shuffle, coupling catchy, twinkling melody with harmonized whispering vocals.

'Winter in Venice' melts muffled, up-tempo drumbeats with more of Swan's elegantly haunting vocals and a distinctly European influence, which also seeps into the French-café sounds of 'Glory'. As the album heads towards a its conclusion, there's something beautiful but sinister in the mixture of gently ominous drumbeats and delicate, icy piano, while Swan's vocals soar to smooth new heights.

With its mix of chill-out and smoldering intensity, jazz fans, contemporary folk fans and maybe even Indie fans could easily find themselves captivated by Ilya's exciting mix of sounds and genres.


This record starts on familiar territory with September Rendezvous, franco jazz noir, then veers off into 'In The Valley', stunning 50's retro. Falling Everywhere defies categorization. There's something for everyone here, some latin freakout, some sweaty desert blues, all centered around the amazingly rich and throaty vocals of Joanna Swan. Gnarly pearls of guitar greatness and beautiful shimmering production dusts the whole.

From Bristol, terra buona Very British con un prestigioso passato musicale. Quello più recente, girandosi giusto un nano-secondo alle spalle, è targato Portishead-Tricky e Massive Attack. Ebbene, molto probabilmente, abbiano trovato i degni eredi (se così si può scrivere) degli artisti sopra menzionati. Ilya con "Somerset" hanno saputo confezionare un lavoro sopraffino e splendido come i seni prosperosi di una bella donna. Canzoni da favola, qualcosa da raccontare ai posteri. Un evento meraviglioso, una beltà fuori dal tempo come "September Rendezvous" e "In The Valley"; trip hop frullato in salsa Pop contagioso ed operativo. Dopo "Dummy" (1994 - Portishead) altre Postcards provenienti da Bristol, Ilya con "Somerset". Voce suadente che rapisce, contagia e fa perdutamente innamorare. E' bello emozionarsi ancora. Mi stupisco, ancora una volta, quando riesco a piangere sentendo e captando questi segnali musicali. Troppo bello.


Ilya's 2004 debut They Died For Beauty was overlooked. In fact, it was passed over so criminally that they were released from their Virgin contract soon after its release. Yet they were liberally showered with critical acclaim - you'll remember their Bellissimo from those Revlon ads - hailed as the best thing from Bristol for donkey's years. After two long years in the wilderness, are they jaded?

Brilliantly, they are not. Quite the opposite, actually: Somerset is the glorious delivery of all those wonderfully exciting promises they made the first time around. It swims in a thick fog of classic sensuality, the songwriting having eventually caught up with Joanna Swan's vintage, ethereal tones. They Died For Beauty's inconsistencies have been ironed out to phenomenal ends.

Ilya, it would seem, have no contemporary rivals: with the exception of certain instrumental outfits (GoTan Project, Stephane Pompougnac), nobody and nothing can touch their sparse-yet-rich arrangements; their delicately realised resolve; their antediluvian solutions to prevailing musical posers. It's almost as if they've been brought to us from the 1950's Parisian lounge scene, a crash course in all the essential transitionals thrown in along the way for good measure (Falling Everywhere's vaguely glam stomp; Wonderful's Clapton-esque guitar sob).

Somerset's opener September Rendezvous picks up where their Virgin efforts left off, replete with tantalisingly delivered continental lyrics, prudent verse and an opulent chorus that burrows gently into your subconscious, snuggling warmly next to memories of Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone and hair-raisingly beautiful artists of yesteryear. In The Valley joins all the same dots in a different order before Falling Everywhere wanders confidently into the fray, wielding - of all things - what appears to be an electric guitar and an effects pedal. It's an unorthodox move on Ilya's part, but it works. Oh boy, does it ever work.

The freshly-nurtured songwriting strength reaches an epiphanic zenith on Wonderful, a profoundly realised, softly touching piano-led love song the likes of which have not been heard for a long time. "If I fall lightly to the ground," asks Swan in her dulcet timbre; "Will you lie down and stay there with me?... Will you always be wonderful?" It's a question all too easily asked of a band given a new lease of life.

Whereas the mid-section marked the point at which They Died For Beauty fell away ever so slightly, Somerset's midriff is as toned as they come: Airborne's smokey café bass is the perfect foil for Swan's vocal flightpath; We Shone carefully ups the tempo with palm mutes, hi-hat riding and some over-dubbed harmonies that have to be heard to be believed; Winter In Vienna digs out the accordion and horns, lifting the band from the streets of Bristol to the cabanas of Havana.

And it doesn't end there: Somerset soars from ear-pricklingly good to unstoppably great; from four stars to five. Glory takes on the aforementioned GoTan Project at their own game and comes off favorably, while Juanita's skewed, insane trumpet solos lounge suggestively beside a seductive, Jessica Rabbit-like vocal track. Sealing the deal with an aural kiss, Sleepwalking propels Ilya's anything-to-hand attitude to new heights with a breathtaking mélange of double bass, capricious flute licks and some deeply inflected, throaty lines.

With their debut LP they made promises they couldn't quite keep. With Somerset, however, Bristol's Ilya have fulfilled their own prophecies and then some, meeting their most far-fetched expectations and, thrillingly, going even further. Without the slightest exaggeration, this is one of the decade's most devastatingly beautiful albums.

Il y a un Dieu. Vraiment.

- David Welsh


They Died For Beauty

Q Review March 2004>p> Is there a Bristolian left who doesn't harbor ambitions of a torchy, cinematic bent? Ilya are the latest to go public, plumping for velvet-draped melodrama, orchestral swathes and even a Bond-theme finale. Though covering similar turf to massive Attack's Francophille accomplices Alpha, at least Ilya take things to pleasurable the edge of overkill. Happy And Weak fuses flamenco fervor trumpet solos and Middle Eastern vocal samples, while on the soaring title track, vocalist Jo Swan's sassy diva act goes the whole Shirley Bassey-meets Nina Simone hog. With jazzy AOR tinges of Sade on Bliss and Soleil Soleil, the coffee table crown is theirs for the taking.....

Martin Aston


March 2004 Letter from, Hans... Executive Director of SEAsian region of Virgin

I just HAD to write to you about Ilya........

It's almost midnight in Hong Kong right now and I am listening to this album that brings to mind everything and everyone from Scott Walker, Jacques Brel, Jobim, Ipenema, and Paris to James Bond, gitanes, jazz, blues, R&B and everything in-between.

And I guess that's the key- Ilya defies comparisons and does everything in-between. If there is old-fashioned, then she is a new fashioned chanteuse-and from Bristol.

If there is an EPK or music video or any onstage performances, I would love to see/hear it all. Cheers. I'll certainly do my best to pass on the message: Ilya est ici....And so is the Future.

Thankyou for sharing this brillient album with us all, including me. It's been quite a ( musical) trip.

Just wish I could work on this act......



Adam Sweeting The Guardian

April 24th 2004 Ilya live at Ronnie Scott's London

Weird and exotic things have a habit of tiptoeing up the M4 from Bristol,and the latest is Ilya. Part band, part high-art concept, their debut album They died For Beauty proved an instant intoxicant for critics.

Ilya's sumptuous track Bellissimo has just been bought up by cosmetics momolith Revlon for a world wide advertising campaign, and you sense that this is an outfit on a roll.

This show was a somewhat experimental toe in the water before Ilya hits the road in May, but the relaxed atmosphere at Ronnie's on a sleepy sunday night made a perfect fit with their languid beats and daring stylistic inventions. Maybe they set out with the intention of making life tough for critics, because their music comes close to being indescribable, there's something like trip-hop in there somewhere, but there's also Edmundo Ros-style dance music, cool jazz, modern jazz, Hungarian dances and grand opera.

The core of Ilya is guitarist/writer Nick Pullin, bassist Dan Brown and Singer Joanna Swan, with the sound filled out by extra violin, mandalin and trumpet, plus a devious pallette of samples.

Their "act" is just them in the process of making music, though Swan is one of the more striking vocalists you're likely to see. She stood centre stage in a black chiffon night gown with red feathery trimmings, hinting at a bottomless decadence hidden behind suburban net curtains. Her voice has a husky bloom to it that travels comfortably over the cracked rhumba of All For Melody or the Balkan -Hyspanic brew of Happy And Weak as if these sorts of hybrids happened all the time. In Quattra Neon, Swan held the microphone further from her mouth to unleash a strident contralto-ish tone Jessye Norman might have admired. Thanks to her bell-like diction, you could hear all the lyrics too-"Here in paradise dog's are sleeping on the ice". It don't mean a thing, but it swings.

************************************** Reviews of TDFB by some Amazon buyers


N.Sutherland ‘truthseeker664’ 30th Jan 2007

This has to be one of the best chill-out albums ever. Easily as good as Zero 7's beautiful debut, "Simple Things" (2001), Kate Bush's inspirational and delightful double-disk masterpiece "Aerial" (2005) or any release from Goldfrapp. Somewhat unfairly, Ilya remain in relative obscurity beside those big names, and if it wasn't for hearing "Bellissimo" as featured on a Revlon commercial in 2004 (just the ten second clip of it had me hooked!), I may never have discovered them at all. How much poorer my life would be! This is the perfect album to unwind to. It's distinctive jazzy, Mediterranean feel is a sonic ray of warm, summer afternoon sun, available any time and place.

Highlights of the album include;

Track 1, the lush, dreamy, jazz-tinged ballad, "Bellissimo," with its beautiful sweeping string harmonies and delicate clarinet and harp embellishings.

Track 3, "Bliss." Never has a song been more aptly named! Gentle piano melodies introduce this warm, summery love ballad, while vocalist Joanna Swan's rich, airy voice gently wails "Blissssss, when we're eight miles high. And blisssssss when we reach the sky.

Track 4, "Heavenly" is less chilled, more dramatic, but still fairly downbeat. There's a hind of Broadway-style musical to it, with its grand, cinematic brass-band chorus and sharp, crackling vocal performance.

The rest of the album continues in the more chilled, mellow tones of "Belissimo" and "Bliss," though becoming more melancholy, especially on the dark, mournful "Pretty Baby" and the cool, ghostly sparseness of, "Happy And Weak" which actually gets quite brooding and dramatic toward the end, the traditional Mediterranean style influences very obvious in the instrumentation.

"All for melody" with it's upper-mid tempo, swirling harps, guitars, and meandering melody, is also beautiful, as is "They Died for Beauty" with distinct verses and choruses, the piercing brassy note of the trumpet giving it a certain Spanish feel. In fact all the tracks are great, and there isn't a dull moment on the album. What more can I say except BUY IT! If you like your chilled stuff, this is an absolute must-have. Sonically beautiful, deeply relaxing, chic and classy. Belissimo

Incredible - I can't stop playing it!,


I buy alot of music but until this CD I've never, ever, been moved enough to write a review. It's hard to describe what genre it falls into and I feel that it does it an injustice to try and do so. I can understand some of the comparisons, to other groups that have been made - but this album and Ilya have gone somewhere completely different and somewhere very beautiful. I must be smitten because I'm lost for words.

Worth every penny!,


I can't really recommend this album enough. I won't add much to what the other reviewers said, except to say that this is probably my favourite album of all time (and i don't say this lightly!) and that it really grows on you - i have listened to it every single week since i bought it over a year ago. Give it your attention and I'm sure you won't be disappointed!

Resolutely un-fashionable and all the better for it.


Beautiful, intelligent and very musical - the uk press probably won't admit to liking this until it's sold a million copies and then will try and re-claim it.


Don't wait to hear it around someone else's house and then be embarrassed when you say you didn't already own it.

A future classic.


I've heard their 2 ep's, which were so magic so beautiful that I couldn't hardly wait till the complete album to be released. But there it is. Much more beauty for all of us! You could think, "oh my god, another trip-hop album". But it is not another one. It's like dummy in 1994 or felt mountain in 2001. A record to be listened for all the time.


Well what can i say? This is simply THE best CD I’ve bought this year, and will remain in my heart and soul for years to come. An album that flows seamlessly, and conjures up images of lazy afternoons and evenings where your troubles have taken a restbite. Go on, indulge yourselves. It's well worth it!


There must be something in the local produce of Bristol for once again it has delivered unto us an inspiring and dreamy group with all the little flourishes, which touch the heart and warm the soul. The debut album from vocalist Joanna Swan, writer Nick Pullen and Producer Dan Brown, gently kneads dramatic John Barry strings with sun kissed acoustics, crisp flattened beats and smoky aromatic vocals.

Swan indulges in each individual tale and cinematic overture, feeling not only the pleasure but the pain, ‘Happy and Weak’.

Opener ‘Bellissimo’ swirls with ambient panache, crying out to be adopted by a car advert.

The Mediterranean come Bristol vibe continues on the jazztastic ‘Quattra Neon’ complete with another spellbinding chorus. At times the radiance of Air’s sweet electronic melody and gentle bossa of Gilberto creep up.

Certain tracks like ‘Heavenly’ adopt the characteristic big band aplomb of the Portishead canon before Swan swells into a rasping vocal.

One listen to ‘Soleil Soleil’ could convince even the weatherman that all is sunny and well. ‘They Died For Beauty’ r Beauty’ closes with some beautiful key changes of the Zero 7 variety.

Comparisons aside this is a sonic landscape in which to roam; dynamic sound, lush instrumentation, tender melody and emotive vocals. An enchanting debut beyond downbeat anonymity.


Each song flows wonderfully, and if I were to categorize this CD under a genre, I would be at a lost for words. However, I could say it's the kind of music one listens to on the French Riveria while sitting on a balcony overlooking the blue Mediterranean Sea as the sun starts to set.

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