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splendid > reviews > 8/16/2004
Adem
Adem
Homesongs
Domino


Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "Everything You Need"

Buy me now
I'm always impressed when an artist holds my attention without bowling me over with bombast. Adem Ilhan does it without even raising his voice. Homesongs is his minor key playground, filled with masterpieces in the making. All you have to do to enjoy them is slow... down...

Possessing a voice like The Snakes' Andre Ethier with a little less velvet, Adem creaks and hushes through the gaps between plucked strings, brushed xylophones and gently disturbed tambourines. Indeed, calling them "shaken" would indicate a level of aggression that Adem clearly does not demonstrate or endorse. A tad too driven to be mistaken for a collection of lullabyes, Homesongs could be the soundtrack for your next lucid dreaming session, the wide-awake lightbulb that clicks on just as you're about to drift off.

The songs are lush without being overburned by production technique. Indeed, Adem favors the most low-tech of settings, the better to take advantage of an unexpected harp interlude on "Pillow" (which he later uses to pluck out a sleepy salute to "Jingle Bells") or deliciously appropriate flutes accompanying the bridge on the love-at-first-sight stunner "One in a Million". Adem seizes a theme and explores it from the inside out, even in basic paint-by-number methods. Consider the endlessly repeated chorus of "These Are Your Friends": "everybody needs some help sometimes", a sentiment that evolves from obvious to banal to tiresome to undeniably true to galvanizingly atmospheric as the repetitions mount, building from mumbles through chants into anthem before receding to the original whispers. This is followed by the lazy childhood summer of "Everything You Need", a subtly impassioned plea for a loved one (friend? relative? ex-lover?) to return, nestled in among the breezy guitars, muted percussion and "la-da-day" refrain, astutely tackling both the lost innocence and youthful hope of such a subject.

Later, we find Adem bracing himself for the "Long Drive Home" ("I came 'cause you asked me to / so you wouldn't have to drive all alone/ I did the favor here, not you"), and yet he never lets it get him too far down. The omnipresent xylophone refuses to buckle, resolute in its determination to stare down the void and remind us all that there's a silver lining to every grey cloud. Herein lies the true essence of Adem's world: every cloud is a grey cloud. Some are brighter than others, but none are ever bleak enough to break him. Who's to say we can't all use a little level-headed optimism these days?



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