Love and Other Planets


    Love and Other Planets is the work of a man who adheres closely to grounded songwriting, even if he’s recently become infatuated with the cosmos. British multi-instrumentalist Adem Ilham‘s curious attachment to space is apparent on Love and Other Planets, his second solo effort, but he is just as human here as he was on 2004’s Homesongs, his folkie debut that featured home-recorded help from former Fridge bandmate Four Tet. Though the production value of Love and Other Planets intermittently occupies the same close corners that Homesongs did, Ilham’s newer work presents a concept that is far too vast to for him to have covered on his rather intimately constructed solo debut.


    Ilham’s arrangements on Love and Other Planets are nearly identical to the generous but minimally orchestrated ones on Homesongs. He still wields his acoustic guitar on nearly every track, and when he isn’t using folk-picking structures for tracks such as “Spirals” or “Sea of Tranquility,” his instruments play a much milder role than that of his rich, earnest vocals. Ilham thumbs through three or so notes at a time during the verses of opener “Warning Call” before the chorus rushes forth, blanketed in Homesongs-like chimes and backing vocal harmonies. The upbeat numbers on Love and Other Planets never break the acoustic-guitar/understated-percussive accompaniment format that Ilham clutches to tightly, but delay effects and electronics sneak in every so often and produce memorable results, such as the brief, sonically wondrous echo spread of “X is for Kisses” and the ambient wisps of “Lost Transmission from the Lost Mission.”


    Even if its resemblance to the Homesongs is so overt that it could have easily appeared in 2004 instead of 2006, this album’s title track is a pedal-pumped organ-centered beauty. The reluctant star of the show is accompanied on “Love and Other Planets” only by tasteful spots of Emma Smith’s violin and a wandering metallic screech beneath the dense, pleasant key melody. At the chorus, he suggests simply, “We are not alone.” In any other capacity, such a remark hearkens to asinine, Rod Serling-like gibberish, but it’s sensibly supported here by the beautiful and ubiquitous Great Beyond metaphor rumbling through each track.


    It’s apparent that Ilham’s travels, be they into space or across the room, retain an intimacy that few artists are capable of generating on one album, let alone two.


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