Kevin Imbrechts may be from Belgium, but there is something unmistakably Icelandic in the character of the music he creates as Illuminine, a kind of atmospheric and enigmatic beauty. No wonder Sigur Ròs sound engineer Birgir Jón Birgisson took an early interest in his work and invited Imbrechts to the band’s Sundlaugin studio where he completed the recording of first album and went on to record the next two. Of course, there are other prominent strands in the DNA of his sound – melancholic neoclassical in the vein of Ólafur Arnalds or A Winged Victory for the Sullen (whose Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie has become a collaborator) and electric guitar which traces back to Imbrechts’ admiration for the more introspective work of avant-garde instrumentalist Buckethead citing ‘Electric Tears’ (Metastation, 2002) as an influence.
All of these elements are manifestly present on the newly released #3 which turns out to be the most personal Illuminine album yet as Imbrechts reveals it concerns a very dark chapter in his life during he was struggling with anxiety and panic attacks as well as being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Harrowing as that may sound, he says that writing the album was “the best therapy possible” and that it turned into a sort of “secret sound diary” which he molded to reflect the daily cycles from dawn to anxious, sleep-deprived nights and back to hopeful dawn again.
“It’s my own ‘channel’ to communicate with the world, to express feelings. Everyone can and should project their own ideas and feelings onto the music. Instrumental music is more powerful than vocal music with clear lyrics; it’s much more telling. I want to share this with the world, as I think people have to talk about these issues. It’s not easy to talk about it, but it helps.” – Kevin Imbrechts
As an example, the opening track called “Aura” reflects on times when Imbrechts would finally be falling asleep after a long night of lying awake only to be disturbed by the sound of the neighbor’s running shower, a sound which can be heard in the intro before the music begins.
This nicely illustrates Imbrechts curative approach which emphasizes comfort, hope, and healing. Though hinting at the intensely anxious moments with the jarring distortion of “Apprehension, Pt II”, most of the songs have a soothing and uplifting effect that belie their titles. It is an approach he wishes to extend visually by creating videos for each song which will ultimately form an “album movie” featuring some of the Icelandic landscapes that he has gotten attached to over the years as in the one made for the densely layered “Alas, Orpheus”.
The album also features two wonderful vocal tracks featuring Hannah Corinne, a singer-songwriter from the Appalachian mountains currently living in Iceland whose angelic voice is perfectly suited to the comforting words of loving persistence she proclaims in the poignant “Fright”:
“Why do you need to be better before you let me come in? Fear makes you seem like stranger. But I’ll meet you time and time again. We both change, every day every minute. If you learn to stick with it, then you’ve learned how to love. I’m no anchor. I’m the sky.”
Everyone feels vulnerable at one time or another and for some the weight of anxiety and darkness can prove to be crushing. It is a gift to have such beautiful music made by someone who sincerely understands and points true north toward the hope that each dawn can bring.
#3 is now available in both CD and vinyl LP editions each of which comes with a handwritten note as well as digital/streaming.