COVID-19 and lockdown delayed the release of Illy’s sixth studio album The Space Between by eight months. Although for an album three years in the making, a bit of patience wasn’t too much to ask for both artist and his fanbase. He’s dropped plenty of singles in the meantime.
Melbourne-based Illy, Alasdair Murray, hadn’t put out an LP since 2016’s Two Degrees, where singles “Papercuts” and “Catch 22” earned him mainstream love and consolidating industry recognition with APRA Awards and ARIA nominations. Not that he hadn’t already established himself within the Aussie hip hop/rap scene or wider mainstream. He’d carved out his niche since 2009 debut LP Long Story Short, led by hit single “Pictures”.
As the LP title hints, the period between his latest two albums represents a key theme of his latest work. On the album he touches on mental health, hedonism, death, video games, romance and the music industry. As Illy puts it, this album is “his most personal to date”, showing sincerity and vulnerability with his lyrics, which are a neat poetic yet blunt mix. It’s a progressive take on hip hop, which has always been charged in masculinity and malediction.
Without allowing too many specifics, The Space Between talks about change over the past few years in 34-year-old Murray’s life as the one constant. It sees the artist reflecting on the journey not the destination, often pining with nostalgic joy, but also pointed cynicism too.
It’s important to note he finished recording the album in March last year, before being stuck in lockdown, so those challenges aren’t lyrically or musically represented.
The latter part of the album is more somber. But, there’s still a long list of summer anthems and radio hits available too. Seven tracks have already been released as singles, including three back in 2019.
Album opener “Wave” showcases that cynicism towards the music industry; particularly the critics and big shots. Meanwhile he teams up with G-Flip for a nostalgic romantic tune on “Loose Ends”, which he retains should’ve been an “absolute f**king smash” when released last year as a single.
Musically, Carla Wehbe’s vocals on “No Feelings” are sweet, while “Codes” cruises along with a heavy bass line and Wrabel’s electro-hop cameo on “Mirror” is a highlight too.
Illy openly discusses the negative thoughts which trouble his mind in latest single “I Myself & Me”. It’s a bouncy upbeat track by sound, but brooding upon further inspection.
“Cheap Seats” and “Then What” are two party tracks which add poppy vibes. The former focuses on the simple things rather than fame and VIP benefits (highlighted by WAAX‘s shout-aloud chorus line “we don’t need 15 minutes in the spotlight”), while the latter laughs at fake friends.
Guy Sebastian makes an unlikely appearance with a lovely soft chorus on twelfth track “Lonely”, before Illy’s hedonistic inclination is explored in “Race To The Bottom” and “Best Mistakes”.
The title track is tucked away as the penultimate song but sums up the album in both theme and tone. A reflective chorus, which showcases an artist keen to be progressive and open in a changing world and industry. A world where masculinity is starting to no longer be defined by physicality or stoicism, but the self-awareness to overcome our own struggles.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The Sydney album launch show at The Factory Theatre has been rescheduled for March 4th. For more information and tickets head HERE.