At the risk of getting all Pitchfork on your asses, I have to begin this review with a probably gratuitous anecdote. Until very recently I didn’t know much about Adem Ilhan aside from the fact that he played bass for Brit post-rock outfit Fridge and that his 2004 collection of homespun recordings, aptly titled Homesongs (and which I still haven’t heard), got some great reviews. My introduction to Adem’s music was, in very modern fashion, via a file transfer of his new album Love And Other Planets during an extremely depressing AIM conversation. So, I come to Other Planets, like Patrick Wolf’s Wind In The Wires, without having heard its predecessor. I also come to it with a whole lot of emotional baggage, the likes of which will probably make for a less than objective review. So maybe this is less of an anecdote and more of a disclaimer—the kind my favorite high school English teacher used to frown upon.
Regardless, there’s no refuting the utter beauty of Adem’s songwriting. Björk’s Vespertine keeps popping up as a mental reference. As in, This Album Is Best Consumed With Coffee & A Cigarette. And not just because of all the laptop pitter-patter and layered background harmonies. Other Planets is a woozy concept album that begins with “Warning Call,” an imagined wake-up plea from extraterrestrials: “They made a list of their mistakes/It looked a lot like ours/If it happened/Do you think we’d learn?” Adem wonders. It’s not a completely novel idea for a song—Milla Jovovich’s “Alien Song (For Those Who Listen)” comes immediately to mind—but it’s the way in which Adem takes those lessons learned and seamlessly connects them like the stars in a constellation (and the dots drawn on his arm by a lover in “Spirals”) throughout the 45 minutes that follow.
Not all of Other Planets is glum though. “Don’t look so forlorn,” Adem begins on the very next song, “Something’s Going To Come,” a rollicking and hopeful ditty that adds lightly shuffling drum n’ bass to his preferred mix of acoustic guitar, glocks, and harmonium. And his words are equally nimble, most notable on the poetic “You And Moon,” “X Is For Kisses,” with its seemingly effortless and organic alphabetically arranged lyrics, and the abovementioned “Spirals,” in which he thoughtfully observes the “galactic tectonic shifts” in his chest. Love And Other Planets is a thing of beauty, but one that, because of the melancholy surrounding its introduction in my life, is very difficult to listen to. But also because there’s a palpable sadness, a sense of fleeting, even in his joy, which is perhaps what draws us into Adem’s drifting, celestial soundscapes—and toward love—in the first place.