Indie-Rock Duo, Illiterate Light, Drop Groovy Debut EP
There’s no shortage of cool psych-rock groups treating us to radio-friendly anthems bound to creep up the charts slowly but surely. Not all of those bands are Illiterate Light, though. The Richmond, VA duo — consisting of Jeff Gorman on guitar, vocals, and bass and Jake Cochran on vocals and percussion — have been creating together for over a decade. Their camaraderie and creativity have united them in a two-minds-are-better-than-one sort of way. Together, they make amazing things happen.
Nowhere is this clearer than on Illiterate Light’s debut EP, Sweet Beast, released last month. In just five fleeting tracks, the guys craft an addictive soundscape traveling the bridge between rock and psychedelia, a mixture that is so undeniably mesmeric at times that the record starts to feel less like a debut and more like the latest release of a full band with a prolific discography. Sure, Sweet Beast is their first big introduction to what they can accomplish, but Illiterate Light sound seasoned. They know what they’re doing and they’re doing it damn well.
Sweet Beast kicks off with “Better Than I Used To,” a track that proves quickly to be the obvious choice for opener. It’s the perfect representation of the many levels and flavors Illiterate Light boast — from dreamy, wavering vocals to expert guitar work to a continuously evolving rhythm line, every element thoughtfully waiting in the shadows for their turn to shine. But that’s sort of the point — they don’t each get a spotlight because everything connects and thrives in this cohesive setting. It’s a united arrangement that finds Illiterate Light delivering a dynamic performance of bewitching indie-rock touched by psychedelia.
On “Nuthin’s Fair,” the guys get a little more obvious with their crowd-pleasing psych-rock efforts. The pace is quicker, plus there’s an in-your-face element encouraging listeners to vibe to it from the get-go. The bass line has a quirky funk to it and the percussion is raging, smashes and pounds and slaps giving a little zest to the resigned lyrics. The halfway point of Sweet Beast finds its title track, a too-quick rock anthem built on an all-mighty arrangement of searing distortion and dreamy vocal echoes. It’s definitely a gentle trip into the angsty alt-rock we can tell hides inside Illiterate Light, but softened by moments of synth swells.
“Two Cats” comes next, a shadowy lo-fi romp. The vocals are freer and fogged over by the insistent pulse of percussion and ricocheting guitar line, edgy with a wild instrumental solo beaming with neon plinks and rapid-fire strums. Sweet Beast ends far too soon with “Growin’ Down,” a bittersweet query into growing up when in reality, it sure seems like we’re all just growin’ down. It’s a slightly more stripped-back performance than the rest of the EP — we still get rising plumes of tender rock rhythms and shimmery guitar twang, but it comes later and seemingly out of nowhere, sharing the space with yowled vocals.
On Sweet Beast, Illiterate Light deliver a cohesive EP rich with high-powered passion. With just five quick songs, we get the gamut of the band’s talent — from their ability to craft swirling psych-rock arrangements to their inability to hold back, a trait that allows Illiterate Light to let loose and find their best work. Sweet Beast is a remarkable reminder of what happens when the mesmerized meets the mad — magic.
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Featured photo of Illiterate Light by Joey Wharton