Kwes’s 2012 Meantime EP was brief, but it showcased his warm voice and ability to write beautiful off-kilter pop-songs. It may be best to stick with that release, writes Tom Hoskins.
There has been development and ilp. in fact starts promisingly: opener “Purple Hands” begins with Jai Paul-esque electronic confusion and geese (geese/saxophones masquerading as geese are good in music: see Fleet Foxes’ The Shrine/An Argument), before merging into a psychedelic waltz à la much of Youth Lagoon’s Wondrous Bughouse, in which he and his lover feed swans (maybe they weren’t geese) and pick berries. The comforting warmth of Meantime is there, alongside a willingness to experiment. This good start is just about maintained through “36”, which boasts a cute, catchy hook and the same intimate keyboards and production. Yet the promise of an exciting album, valiantly upheld by the first two songs, is then speedily deflated.
ilp. has a relatively sparse lyrical style, often favouring short lines and direct honesty. “B_shf_l” (a slight reworking and improvement of Meantime’s “Bashful”) proves that Kwes can execute this well – “A countenance, accountable, for the lack of mettle in my bones, I’m bashful” sticks in your head for quite a while. But after describing how a girl asked you not to let go of her while she was rollerblading, few voices, however gentle, could convincingly sing the line “Unfortunately I did, cos I had to go in for dinner”. As if to try and overcome the possible difficulty and monotony that this laconic style could bring, Kwes regrettably delves into wordplay: “Baby I’m not a fan of dates, an impending bitterness, but I’ll eat them anyway”.
The tempo is consistently slow throughout ilp., and it is only on closer “B_shf_l” that there is variation. Although “36” and “Broke” work well at this speed, the other song-writing causes the album to drag. This negativity perhaps shouldn’t be so strong – it’s not awful. The overall sentiment of ilp., with Kwes seeming laid-back and accepting of life’s unpredictability and inevitability, improves the overall experience; its intimacy is pleasant and the unsettling instrumental breaks on “Chagall” and “Parakeet” create some variation and excitement. Yet “B_shf_l” undeniably surpasses the rest of ilp. both musically and lyrically, and given that it wasn’t even the highlight of Meantime, Kwes’s standard has certainly slipped.