Though not really a derivation of the brand of “folktronica” currently en vogue with found-sound collagists like The Books, and certainly a far cry from the post-everything instrumentals of Fridge (one of the UK’s most adventurous experimental rock bands), Adem Ilham has created an amazingly distinctive, idiosyncratic, and downright unclassifiable work with Homesongs. Employing a decidedly stripped-down aesthetic, with little more than finger-picked acoustic guitar, glockenspiel, banjo and the odd percussive effect, it’s the rare album whose intentionally narrow gaze ends up taking in far more detail and context than other albums with far grander ambitions. The beautifully haunting, symbolic verse of “Ringing in My Ear” and the wearily resilient “These Are Your Friends” has more in common with the richly adorned pastoral layering and distinctly personal symbolism of Sufjan Stevens than either the prurient conservatism of hardcore folkies, or the tedium of the post-rock community.
For an artist whose previous work largely fell into the category of experimental rock instrumentals, Ilham has a surprisingly strong, distinctive voice, falling somewhere between Donovan’s intimate whisper and Beck’s utilitarian croon. The track list covers a similarly impressive range, as well, from the pristine solemnity of the lullaby-ish “Pillow” and its plucked autoharp to the near-British folk solemnity of “There Will Always Be.” The extent to which Ilham comes across as a distinctly human voice in a pervasively tangible sonic atmosphere lends the album a decidedly immediate character. At no point does it sound like anything but the expression of one singular talent capturing a moment in time. In the end, it’s an album that by all accounts should have fallen flat but ends up the most unlikely of triumphs, proving yet again that genre-defining works may originate outside the genre in question.