Album reviews for 'Turn It Loose!'
Ill Ease wants to see you go crazy
Brooklyn-based one-woman musical sensation Ill Ease's sixth full-length, Turn it Loose!, dropped early last month. Characterized by low-fi strumming and rhythmic drumming (not to mention a host of other musical contributions), Elizabeth Sharp's raw instrumentation and minimalist singing is a combination sure to turn heads.
Lyrics range from irreverent to simplistic and repetitive. While the words leave a lasting impact, it's Sharp's delivery style that astounds: on initial listen, one assumes they're grooving to an Iggy Pop- meets Rolling Stones-loving, testosterone-dominated, indie band. It's beguiling!
Sharp's skill at seamlessly layering myriad instruments and varied vocal elements is laudable, an audible illusion if ever I heard one. Her catchy and adolescent-esque "Hate the Game" is hands-down soundtrack bound. (Think a Michael Cera "comedrama.") Sharp nods her head to history with "Here Comes Trouble," an antidote to Orbison's original "Pretty Woman." Addictive and danceable, this track inspires clapping and singing in no time.
Raucous and discordant, "When Suddenly, the Evil Twin Arrives!" offers a fun number apt to be overplayed at hipster stores everywhere. With flirty lines like "Shake it, shake it, baby! I wanna see you go crazy!" it'll have customers rocking from dressing room to register. Seeking Southern twang? "Dear Krazy" serves up fast-paced, folksy foot tapping with a side of frenetic chorus.
Ill Ease hates DRUUHM MACHEENS she hates DRUUHM MACHEENS! She smacks her snare like its Peaches' arse and makes summat joyous out of a (tongue-in-cheek?) indie girl Ludditism. You think: has she never heard Stephen Morris' kickdrum rise up, flare its nostrils and whinny in 'Blue Monday'? Has she never had even the beats of The Blow punch little holes in her heart? Yeah, probably, but Elizabeth Sharp looks and sounds amazing, deliriously slapping about a noisy drumkit over bass and guitar that she'd looped on the fly, minutes earlier. I think I hate drum machines too, and I love drum machines.
It totally sabotages all the usual being-in-a-band image b.s. There's nothing but her, some noise-making things, and a machine that lets her layer the noises like a little kid who swapped friends for tape-recorders, and made up new, better mates by multitracking herself into a gang. There's no posing, it's all clatter. I wish everyone would do thisjust make up A Thing and get up onstage and have a bit of a shout and stuff. I bet it feels ace.
Elizabeth Sharp (ill-ease-a-beth) has been honing her sound for a few years now. A one-woman band, she plays all the instruments herself, even live. This she achieves by playing into loops, loping around the stage to play along with herself. The gigs manage to pull off the trick of building and building into a kind of frenzy. They are not to be missed.
And the honing is evident here on her new single. Comprised of an A-side and a double-A, the two are brought together under the capsule headed 'The Whole Sha-bang!'
The first of these, 'Here Comes Trouble', showcases a new groove domination, which had been hinted at on Ill Ease's last album, 'All Systems a Go-go'.
"I don't know what I want, but I know what I like," sings Liz. Her usual themes are here: summarized as dealing with loves won and lostquirked by Sharp's eccentric approach, which involves taking hold of a rock 'n' roll paradigm and teassing and torturing it, like a cat with a mouse.
'What Makes Your Heart Go Boom' has a fuzzy guitar and a falling-down-the-stairs loop. Why ever not, we say.
"Turn it Loose!" (Ionik Records) is the perfect name for the new danceable disc by Ill Ease and the Racket. Ill Ease (a.k.a. Elizabeth Sharp) wants you to feel the funk and shake some action from start to finish. Beginning with the disco deconstruction of "Here Comes Trouble (To The Tune of Pretty Woman)" and then spinning dizzily into "It's A Downward Spiral," Ill Ease and the Racket want nothing more than for you to, as she whoops at the end of "Spiral," "turn it loose!" There are plenty of opportunities to do just that on "Two Lanes Left (All The Way)," "Le Jeux Son Fait," "My Last Tango In Paris" and "I Think I Might Be In Love Again."
'Sharp cuts loose in tight fashion'
Ill Ease provides darkly vague comfort on "Turn It Loose!", a brilliantly executed exercise in contrasts by Elizabeth Sharp. Sharp's one-woman projectwhich newly credits The Racket, a name for the looping pedals she uses to hold groovesis an unusually interesting play on atmosphere.
"Turn It Loose!" is a rather precise and complicated DIY endeavor designed to feel deceptively unstructured, a method that might draw comparisons to Beck or M.I.A., though Sharp is more akin to Sonic Youth, PJ Harvey and a blend of Throwing Muses founders Kristin Hersh and Tanya Donelly that combines Hersh's ominous ambiguity and rhythmic crunch with Donelly's wry cheer and infectious hooks.
The result on "Turn It Loose!" is a song like "It's a Downward Spiral!" where Sharp happily sings the titular refrain as all manner of chaos, from electric-guitar jolts to manic tambourine, drums and claps, erupts all around. Then there's the jumble of "Two Lanes Left (All the Way)," a road song (complete with city shout-outs) that comes across as both carefree and sinister as she sings about moving on.
Opener "Here Comes Trouble (To the Tune of Pretty Woman)," which in fact is not to the tune of "Pretty Woman," best exemplifies Sharp's approach as she pins her deadpanned, smoky delivery of, "I don't know what I want, but I know what I like" to a propulsive, yet beguilingly murky, mix.
Meanwhile, whether she's entrenched in the full-roil of the crashing "Le Jeux Son Fait" or singing along to the whimsical whistling of the peppy "I Think I Might Be in Love Again," Sharp leaves her music wide open to interpretation. So even listeners clueless to her intent find a way to connect to her weirdness.
Percussion genius Elizabeth Sharp wrote a bunch of tunes while on the road last year. She must have had plenty of moments where, though tired and foggy, there was the urge to shout out with gusto.
Positive, hopeful songs abound on Turn It Loose!, and Sharp's sound is by now hard as a rock: dense insistent drumming, off-kilter lo-fi guitar, stream-of-consciousness lyrics, her persistent overdubbed barbaric yawp over her own vocals. There is a giddy feel to the record, and it's infectious.
Songs like "It's a Downward Spiral!" "When Suddenly, The Evil Arrives! (Brighton Beach Memoirs)" and "Hate the Game" all attest to the fact that Sharp is not happy due to being naive. Her lyrical take seems to be that since life is bizarre and sometimes mean, embrace it and rise above as best you can.
The musically dark but lyrically brave "Le Jeux Son Fait" sums up that philosophy with grace and grit. What Turn It Loose! turns loose is the spirit of a confident, savvy artist. Sharp doesn't look away from pain but dares it to stop her.
This is a funny record that makes its point fearlessly. Its ragged production and constant pulse gives it its power. You know you are listening to a person who says it like she means it.
Album reviews for 'The Exorcist'
When listening to Elizabeth Sharp's one-woman band, Ill Ease, its hard not to think of her photographs, which are characterized by super-saturated color, rough edges, and a seemingly slapdash yet cleverly calculated collage sensibility. Her body of work so farfrom her drumming in New Radiant Storm King to her fourth Ill Ease outing, to her photos, some of which can be found in the library at New York's MOMAcomes straight from her dreams into your reality.
Sharp's wry humor shines like sunny rays. A drunk, dizzy sense of play and mischief permeates The Exorcist, as on 'Malfunction Junction' where "self-destructing all day and night" sounds like the wisest thing to do. Her video for the cheery, catchy 'Jersey-O-Matic'surely her best pop song yetis full of decaying Jersey boardwalk funplexes and a bygone era of hedonism, promise, and glory. On the hilarious 'The Skank', she goes back in time to age 18, when throwing up in the sink and watching other people make out was the rule of the day.
Her rythms remain top-notchher drumming forms the backbone of The Exorcist's body of airy keyboards and sharp, crunchy riffs. The music is more interesting than eversoulful, jazzy, funky, entirely her ownand her signature jagged rhythms are entrancing, making you feel slightly woozy. Her voice, sometimes high, othertimes husky, but almost always whispered low in the mix of a bit deadpan, conveys melodies of girl groups and sex kittens gone haywire. The beautiful backup vocals hint at unbrandished doo-wop weaponry in her ever-expanding arsenal. The Exorcist will disengage even the most jaded listener from her inhibitions, forcing her to sit back and enjoy Sharp's hell-raising ride.
Throughout the 90's, Sharp established herself in the male-dominated realm of indie-rock as drummer of New Radiant Storm King and bassist for Skinner Pilot. Now, she employs her captivatingly unconventional style in her solo project, Ill Ease.
The Exorcist is Sharp's fourth full-length and it is pretty damn good. She remains true to her perplexing aesthetic, which is usually a repetitive groove that changes gradually as she layers on keyboards, singing, guitar, noise, etc. The result is a catchy hook that often seems quite mellow and agreeable at first, but then gets pretty sick, twisted, and murky. You're never quite sure of what exactly she's singing aboutbut it won't bother you. I like to fill in the details using my imagination, as if I were looking at a snapshot.
As I listen, I try to envision
the circumstances that would explain the vague yet complex sentiments
you get from the music. By the end, you won't be sure what combination
of emotions you are experiencing from The Exorcistother
than a steadfast compulsion to play it again.
Elizabeth Sharp has created an album in which she composed the songs and played all the instruments. Heavy on the bass and drums, and light on guitar, the vocals are mixed in quietly, to blend and become another instrument. The first track, "Jersey-O-Matic," is vaguely reminiscent of The Breeders, with driving, melodic bass lines, and guitar lines that match them. It even has a catchy chorus of vocatives.
It was probably Sharp's days as a drummer, (she says the drum is her favorite instrument) that contribute to the rhythm-driven songs on this album, which are complex, and definitely not your standard 4/4 rock songs. But it all works. You know that it was supposed to be like that; all the rhythmic jumblings seem calculated and intentional. It's quirks like this that make the album so interesting.
The songs on The Exorcist are the opposite of catchy, yet they have a way of staying with you. They are a concise, journalistic, yet quirky approach to emotions. They work on a textural level to add another layer of sound, rather than to communicate an actual message. This presents an overall feeling and mood to the vignettes she is describing.
Be sure to stay around to listen
to the "hidden" tracks.
The Exorcist does the tighten up on Ill Ease's shtick. Whether or not it's at the expectance of her new and larger label, Too Pure, IE maestro Elizabeth Sharp has leashed Live at the Holiday Sin's meandering muse and created her strongest set yet. That doesn't mean she's gone all pop. The same chattering and stilted percussion winds through Exorcist, but it's matched to a series of robust, tensile guitar riffs straight from a '90s indie clip-art book, and a more directly randy lyrical bent.
Opener "Jersey-O-Matic" channels the Breeders' "Last Splash" through a chintzy keyboard Cuisinart and a bunch of beguiling "ba-ba-ba"s from Sharp; it will likely surface as the soundtrack to some ridiculously hip fashion show.
There's a bit of Peaches in Sharp's delivery and subject matterit's Danielson Famile turned out by Jon Spencer. The guitar/drum machine dynamic continues throughout Exorcist, supported occasionally by tinny keys or some of the found noise coloring Ill Ease's previous output, and Sharp's wavering near-whisper remains a curiously addicting amalgam of the sly and the personal.
Exorcist is a big-city album
for sure. It's arch and haughty enough for the exclusive loft parties,
but its homemade feel comforts the lonely would-be sex symbols stuck
in narrow uptown efficiencies.
- All Music Guide
Album reviews for 'Live At The Holiday Sin'
8 out of a perfect 10! A dark blend
of low-fi, fuzzed out guitars, thrashy hip-hop style drums and Sharp's
pleasantly off-kilter vocals. Kindred spirits: Royal Trux, My Bloody
Valentine, Sonic Youth.
- Alternative Press
Low fidelity and low self-esteem have
always gone hand in shaky hand. But Elizabeth Sharp (a.k.a. ill
ease) makes the combination arresting again.... She wallows in rhythm
as well as rejection, dropping playroom instrumentation on deep,
circular grooves like a moldy peach playing patty-cake with can.
Bad times never seemed so good.
Filled with sly beats and overdubbed
vocals, Ill Ease makes slick rock music that sexily slip and trips
on itselflike a drunk friend whose word-slurring only enhances
her magnetic appeal. As Ill Ease flirts wth the artistic aspects
of rock music, creating soundscapes that suggest there's more to
Sharp's songs than just what she's playing or saying, the end result
is straight-ahead songs that feel simultaneously experimental and
real.... Musically catchy and lyrically intriguing, layered enough
to delight and confound, and abundantly expressive of the seductive
ill ease of the woman behind the band.
Elizabeth Sharp is Ill Ease and her third album 'Live at the Holiday Sin' was recorded at a cheap motel in Atlantic City. You may remember her as the crack drummer in Radiant Storm King and her stick skills are in no way diminished here. Her beats (and loop samples) are ramshackle and not perfectly within their time signature, but it is always recognisably HER signature.
Elizabeth's distinctive Polaroid photography and stencil typography made the whole package of 'Circle Line Tours' a joy and it's the same here. The pictures make scale bend, cars on the street look like toys.
We definitely need much more
of this kind of thing.
- Careless Talk Costs Lives
Caustic, claustrophobic and often
chaotic, Ill Ease sounds like a lounge singer singer covering early
PJ Harvey material on crack.... It's not difficult to see why Sharp
chose Ill Ease as an umbrella title for her material - that's exactly
what you feel listening to her dark, warped and original journeys.
Velvet Underground comparisons get
tossed about like so much packaging filler these days, which is
unfortunate, because most of the comparisons are unwarranted. Just
because some band has a hypnotic back beat and a mellow stretch
of chugging guitars doesn't mean they've captured what worked so
well for Lou Reed and Co. The Velvets were creating new ways of
expressing internal and external realities through music and, as
a result of the times and the talents involved, something fresh,
exciting and a bit dangerous resulted. Elizabeth Sharp, former drummer/singer of New Radiant Storm King, has spent a great deal of time and energy
fashioning a brand of music that exists true to her inner and outer
worlds, and apart from what passes as the contemporary sound of
the underground....Ill Ease
somehow captures the seething sexual undercurrent of a Velvet's
-Comes with a Smile
Ill Ease isn't the usual type of band. In fact, it's just the vehicle for Elizabeth Sharp's solo work (she's played drums in New Radiant Storm King and bass in Skinner Pilot). Live at the Holiday Sin isn't the usual type of live album. If truth be told, the Holiday Sin isn't a club at all, but a seedy little motel room outside of Atlantic City that Sharp rented to record this album. Oh, and the "Live" part of the title? Who knows where that comes from: Sharp laid down all of the tracks herself in a studio situation with help from producer Thom Monahan (Beechwood Sparks).
That kind of thing is par for the course for Sharp, however, as Ill Ease isn't the sort of band that takes too kindly to the limits of convention. While Live at the Holiday Sin avoids the messier recesses of experimental compositions, it's also not willing to bend and fall into line with songwriting conventions. Ill Ease's sound isn't static, as Sharp sometimes dabbles with electric guitars, sometimes with acoustic ones, while she's not afraid to drag out a piano or xylophone should the need arise (let's not even wonder how a xylophone ends up in a run-down motel room). Because of this, Live at the Holiday Sea has a knack for wandering into everything from mysterious, bass-driven pseudo-lounge ("Jackie's On Acid") to sharp-toothed lo-fi pop ("Whatever Turns U On").
Sharp's eclectic directions on this album may give it a bit of spice, but its sound really centers on her voice. Buzzing like a bundle of nerves, Sharp sounds neither like an angry-at-the-world grrrlie or a sugar-voiced chanteuse.
Don't check in to the Holiday Sin if you're looking
for a nice, clean pop record or a rousing rock album. It's neither,
and, really, its challenging, unconventional side may make it a
bit difficult to listen to, but then again, that's the source of
all its off-kilter charms.
Album reviews for Live At The Gate
"WOW! This girl's music doesn't just sound unlike all the other
GIRLS out there -- it also sounds unlike all the other BOYS as well.
Placing yourself in her unique musical territory isn't an easy thing
these days, but Elizabeth Sharp (who is the one-man band Ill Ease)
sure makes it sound easy. Ms. Sharp was once the drummer for the
band New Radiant Storm King. Lucky for us all, she's now out on
her own making music. I can't quite determine who this music sounds
like. Elizabeth uses some peculiar instruments and even stranger
arrangements to get her ideas across. The overall sound is something
like a hazy, somewhat distorted brand of pop where there's just
enough to grasp onto while still retaining an odd haze of spontaneity...
Easily one of the most original sounding artists of the year thus
- Baby Sue Review
"It's nice every once in a while to receive something that
sets itself apart immediately when you first hear it.... There is
no doubt that this girl is very musically inclined and has a great
voice as well. She basically has gone into a room by herself and
laid down track after track and come out with a great record. Her
creative use of melodies combined with odd time rhythms and stinging
accents makes for a mesmerizing and intriguing rock-like journey."
- Salt for Slugs
"F*CK, YEAH! A crunchy sound from a band that is rhythmically
centered and bent on creating a unique and modern niche for themselves."
- BB Gun
"Ill Ease is fast becoming one of my favorite "bands" that I have reviewed. I say, "band" in quotes, because I'm not sure if this is a real group or just some sort of studio project. Either way, it's cool. Ill Ease create funky, highly textured music that builds each song up layer by layer until you have some really groovy indy pop music.
Ill Ease do what a lot of other similar groups fail to do, which
is pair artistic experimentation with songs that are actually catchy
and well written. Highly recommended."
- Punk Planet
"In Sharp's hip-hop, rock-steady world of beats, she breaks and makes rock simultaneously. Like her cover photos, which reveal urban abstract expressionism in rust and peeling paint, these tunes come from a woman overflowing with ideas and a great sense of texture. Her cut-up sensibility never crowds the organic simplicity of the elements. Even her extensive use of maracas defies convention. Think of her as less a quirky confessionalist/lyricist and more a a rhythmic, atmospheric poet.
Although the LP was mixed in two days by Thom
Monohan (ex-Lilys), the different moods of Sharp's songs never stray
from a raw, rootsy feel. "The Suckers and the Players",
built on a word riff, is a mellow rap with distorted atmospherics
spilling around maracas and a gentle, calm guitar arpeggio, while
"Birmingham" masters the bump and grind as its thrash
rock foundation. This is rockin' yet trancey stuff, and suprisingly
cohesive, with a different tone than any mid-fi name dropping might
"Ill Ease is made up of Elizabeth Sharp, Elizabeth Sharp, and
well, Elizabeth Sharp. Playing just about every instrument known to man, and every
instrument actually on her album, Sharp demonstrates that she's
got some talent. Tinkling tambourines, smooth guitar sequence and
spastic drum beats, along with a whole mess of other sounds, propel
each song into a mind-boggling neighborhood of distorted classic
rhythms. An old antique record scratch underlies each track, giving
the album a street-side performer feel. Sharp taps into an eclectic
vein of chords and lyrics that satisfies while it soothes and empowers
while it angers. It's rough, and it's abrasive, but above all, it's
charged with a rare lyrical and instrumental honesty that takes
you back to early American rock styles."
-UCLA Campus Circle
"The drums are
the focus, with shuffling beats and tinkling tambourines. Extra
instrumentation combines with the drumming to create a suprisingly
full sound. The lyrics add a cheerful viciousness.... There's always
enough variety to keep the listener interested. It's a fresh and
- Alternative Press
"Ill Ease is the latest creation of Elizabeth Sharp, the former
drummer of Massachusetts' New Radiant Storm King, and the former
bassist of New York's Skinner Pilot. The multi-instrumentalist sings
and plays bass, guitar, drums and xylophone. This is an intriguing,
personal work by the accomplished photographer, whose work has been
displayed at New York's Museum of Modern Art. Some of Sharp's own
photos grace the album."
- CMJ Weekly