Illenium transcends genres; touches listeners to their core with sophomore album ‘Awake’ [ALBUM REVIEW]
It has been eight long months of releases and teasers, but as of midnight EST on September 21, the wait for Illenium‘s sophomore album is finally over. Nick Miller, the man behind the productions, is undoubtedly known as one of the more prolific producers of our era, thanks to his consistent output and meteoric rise. While Miller has carved out the future bass genre and helped define its sound, this LP proves he has the ability to transcend genres and appeal to a wide variety of fan bases. This is no small feat that is becoming an increasingly difficult road to navigate as a producer in a day and age, where electronic music fan bases are becoming more fragmented as the industry continues to commercialized.
Awake will only further his prominence as a producer with its 13-tracks ranging from feel good music to intense bass laced drops. Miller even dabbles within the indie electronic genre, showcasing his ability to diversify his oeuvre while still maintaining his signature style.
There is no stronger start to an album than “Needed You” featuring Dia Frampton. The song, which is opens to flowing vocals that melt into an incredible bass drop, resonates in the listener’s mind far past the song’s close. The track combines Illenium’s mastery of mystical elements and sounds as well as powerful bass juxtaposed with unique vocals. Should there be one song selected to describe the tone for the entire album, “Needed You” could certainly vie for this position.
Five singles from the album have been released this year including the second track “Crawl Outta Love,” whose subtle intro with Annika Wells’ vocals and piano deceivingly put the listener at ease. The track hits listeners in their core with its heightened tempo and all-consuming drop. “Fractures,” “Feel Good” — co-produced with Gryffin — “Sound of Walking Away” and most recently “Leaving” make up the rest of the tracks from Awake that were previously released. Representative of Illenium’s talent and engaged fanbase, these five tracks combined have already amassed nearly 83 million streams combined on Spotify alone.
The third track, “No Time Like Now,” although short, is where we see Illenium begin to swerve from his established style into a more indie electronic sound, with guitar forming the backbone of the song. It is a good segue into the fourth track “Free Fall,” which delves back into the resonating bass intercut with melodic vocals.
“Where’d U Go” showcases a collaboration between Miller and his roommate Said the Sky, otherwise known as Trevor Christensen. The upbeat track immediately draws the listener in with a catchy beat that falls almost immediately into an intense drop. As the track continues, vocal layers of a children’s choir lightens the track before submerging the listener back into the hard drop that would resonate with dubstep, future bass, and progressive fans alike. “Where’d U Go” is one of the more upbeat tracks of the album, so those looking for a workout anthem or night out tune should look no further.
Illenium stars to venture into more commercial territory with the second half of the album, although this is far from sellout as the tracks still maintaining a distinct edge. “Lost” with Emilie Brandt veers into a progressive house vibe, with the catchy vocals carrying the track. As with all of Miller’s version of “commercial” music, “Lost” is still far different than anything one would hear on the radio.
“Taking Me Higher” wouldn’t be out of place on Passion Pit record. The track is an interesting juxtaposition of sounds, synths, and styles that melts into a perfect tune for a relaxing afternoon.
Prized vocalist MAX — who has recently collaborated with Rain Man, 3LAU, as well as Flux Pavilion — is featured on Awake‘s penultimate entry, titled “Beautiful Creatures.” Guitar once again is used as the foundation for this track and paves the way for MAX’s vocals to be the centerpiece of the song. It can only be described as melodic with a hint of mystical, and is likely to be a radio hit.
Illenium finishes the album on “Let You Go,” a collaboration with Ember Island. An orchestra compliments the vocals on this downtempo affair, and serves as a beautiful, fitting ending for a beautiful album.
While many call albums an outdated form of releasing music, we can only be thankful that Illenium ignores this and decided to create a masterful full-length in Awake. The producer has left another imprint that further solidifies his prominence in the electronic music community. It is no secret that Miller is a breath of fresh air within a genre that is receiving increased skepticism for turning pop, to say nothing of stale, and, indeed, his music has the unique ability to be played on a radio without compromising its integrity.