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BIOGRAPHIES

Adem

Adem Ilhan's debut album 'Homesongs' was released by Domino Records on the 29th March 2004.

How to explain this extraordinary record? What to say to capture the sheer understated beauty of its conception and realisation? How to convey that - against the odds - another ex-member of Fridge has delivered a record every bit as human, complete and utterly unique as Kieran Hebden/Four Tet's 'Rounds' earlier this year? There are apparent similarities in methodology here. Both records display a meticulous devotion to detail that would be verging on the nerdy were it not for the amazing emotional power they are able to harness through this Faberge egg of sonic filigree. Both records feel like they were made in the early hours of the morning and both construct their own worlds of sound so fully-formed and convincing that it seems implausible that these places could've remained hidden for so long. There, however, the similarities end…

For a start 'Homesongs' is full of the human voice. It seems remarkable that when Adem (say Ah-dem) and Kieran were in Fridge it was deemed an instrumental project because "none of [them] could sing". Adem started singing in earnest in early 2002, and having made two tracks and found his voice decided to think of himself as a singer. It was a good decision. Now the rich brown-ish timbres of his voice recalls all manner of timeless singers nuanced throughout. Here a shading of John Martyn, or maybe one of the Tims (Buckley/Hardin/Rose?), even perhaps a hint of early, pre-bombast Springsteen in his cracked and tired delivery, and what about Shane McGowan? Paul Buchanan? Aidan Moffat? Nick Drake? Young Tom Waits? "I decided to be honest," Adem says. "That was the only was I could be convinced and convincing." Now on 'Homesongs' he has emerged as an expressive singer who can tend towards making everyone else seem crass and over-wrought. All told, 'Homesongs' has the feel of an instant classic. As a bookend to 'Rounds' it could be thought of as a folktronica record without the tronica, except that it couldn't accurately be called a folk record either. What it is is sad, warm, hopeful, delicate, human, over-reaching and yet essentially small. By narrowing his scope to the simple stuff of life, Adem has been able to make a kind of accidental conceptual record built up from "notes to self" about the people and places he holds dear.

'Homesongs' (as its title suggests) is set in and around the domestic environment from whence it sprang. Demoed first in his tiny bedroom in Whitechapel and later recorded in his slightly more spacious apartment in Stoke Newington, it was made with just two borrowed catch-all mics and a computer in the corner so old that it had to be wrapped in Adem's duvet to baffle the motor hum. Sometimes it feels like the listener is being wrapped in a warm duvet. For all its harnessing of the power of (basic) computers, however, 'Homesongs' is all about the ringing of strings between notes, intakes of breath and old and odd "real" instruments. Harmoniums wheeze into life as if borrowed from Ivor Cutler's Scottish Living Room, an autoharp twangs to the light impact of a pencil, a child's toy clicks, and a glockenspiel provides lone accompaniment on a 'Long Drive Home', and nowhere is a drum-kit to be found. "There's a lot of strange stuff on the record that the casual listener wouldn't necessarily notice, but is there in the atmosphere of the tracks". Adem had originally intended to extend the half-dozen demos he had written back in Whitechapel and thought he'd hit upon a direction utilising the great players he'd amassed around him for live work. The magic present onstage, however, evaporated when commuted to the studio and he was forced to start completely over and go back to the way he had always worked in the past; producing and writing simultaneously; making the bass sound right while writing lyrics. Having abandoned the demo recordings, he set about "doing it properly" and 'Homesongs' was finished with Adem playing near everything himself.

The son of a classical pianist, Adem was brought up around music, beginning on piano before switching to guitar later at school, and passing through many bands of various types on the way before ending up with fellow pupils in Fridge. Later on they would famously form Badly Drawn Boy's backing band.

These days Adem still has a variety of other projects on the go (not least of which another Fridge album due later in the year). There's Assembly, who like Sun Ra's Strange Strings exist on the premise of putting a big pile of instruments in front of people who haven't played them before and seeing what results. This they've done at the Tate Britain and various other locales. There's also various remixes, instrumental music and production work with other friends.

(biog facts provided by artists or representative - correct as released for City Showcase August 2004)

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