In a long line of collaborators ranging from Atmosphere's Slug to members of The Notwist, Alias' endless inquiries into the perfect beat recipe and his rigorous quest toward musical growth has peaked again, and this time it's with an artist that few have heard of. The Oakland-based producer from the notable Anticon roster has matched up with his younger sibling in a compelling effort that they named after their grandmother.
In their first-ever outing, Alias & Ehren's Lillian finds the two brothers putting forth what they know best in order to pay tribute to their family, specifically the matriarch. After Ehren Whitney, Alias' kid brother by 11 years, checked out his brother's 2003 release Muted, he made arrangements to improvise with Alias. On Lillian, Ehren offers a sensibility sharpened in sax jam sessions alongside their father as a child. The final work is a ghostly, lush blend of bulky electronica, punctuated by Alias' fuzzy beats and Ehren's spacious accompaniment.
Alias and Ehren couldn't have worked more efficiently if they were taking out the trash or emptying the dishwasher together. Their chores are dutifully completed on Lillian, and the strengths are in the forefront: The more climactic sections of these concise pieces are performed tastefully and without lag. Ehren's clarinet-based introduction to "Miso Stomp" allows for a peek into the album's finest moments, and Alias' static-heavy, commanding grooves fight it out with the track's buzzes, stuttered beeps and singalong melody. Even in its massive beats, "Miso" steers into meandering electronica, as does the majority of Lillian. But the hard-edged, stereo-friendly "Cobblestoned Waltz" underscores a more instrumental hip-hop vibe, though it never approaches "safe" territory by any means, remaining well within the dark, ominous realms that DJ Krush has championed. Beatless efforts "Sunfuzz" and "Moonfuzz" are just as eerie, while "Narrowed Iris" combs the uninviting cinematic fodder that the title suggests.
If the two continue to steer away from the sometimes-impending Enya territory, a 2006 Alias & Ehren follow-up would be a pleasant surprise.