The first car I had after passing my driving test was a Fiat Cinquecento. A small, yellow box on wheels, you couldn’t help but feel that the entire front end of the car was the crumple zone. When it went in reverse, you had to hold the gearstick in place, as it had a habit of popping out at odd times. After the Cinquecento I had a VW Lupo, which was just fine, it just did its thing. I didn’t really get a reward out of it for any sort of skill on my part, but I can’t complain all that much about it because it just ran like you’d hope a car would. Long story short, Illumination is more like the Lupo than the Cinquecento.
As a three track EP, running at around the nineteen minute mark, Illumination is a weird beast. Erol Alkan has had his name out in the dance world for a long while now, so it feels a bit weird reviewing this as his first solo release, but here it is.
There isn’t any new ground broken here, which comes across as a little strange, given the fact that Erol Alkan has already proven himself a solid and exciting musical figure, and you’d think his first solo release would attempt something less obvious. However, it doesn’t; it’s good, never heavy, never thick with lots of different sounds competing for attention, extremely focused, but it just lacks anything which is going to keep you talking about this record for any period of time.
“A Hold On Love” starts off with a sullen electronic series of shifting chords, before evolving slowly as its joined by more diverse percussion. The themes introduced at the start carry through to the end, and it does play around with these themes to an extent, but you can’t help but feel that the track itself is a little bit dry, lacking some sort of meat. The follow up track “Bang!” certainly makes things a bit more interesting with a varied scope, and wonderful symmetry which starts and ends with a lovely drum beat. “Check Out Your Mind,” the longest track at seven minutes, has the most to it, with the odd sample, a bass line reminiscent of Homework-era Daft Punk, but feels like a lot of filler in-between anything exciting going on.
There are some nice things going on here but ultimately everything just feels empty. What you really want to have is something which justifies Erol Alkan’s prominence at the moment, and sadly this doesn’t warrant much attention. It’s a letdown that sounds as if the artist is scared to make any sort of statement, and we’ve ended up with something unmemorable and stale