The field for best album of 2019 is getting extremely crowded. 2018 took its time to build momentum, but from Vylet Pony’s Homeward back in January, through to recent releases like Black Dresses’ Love and Affection for Stupid Little Bitches – this year has rapid-fired them out. However what distinguishes my current pick from its competition is its intensity and strangeness.
Genre wise LILLITH twin’s Of Flame & Love is tagged as “Dreampunk.” This is appropriate for two reasons. One: it’s been released through Dream Catalogue – a UK based label which has long been on the cutting edge of electronic music. Two: this album cracks reality.
Of Flame & Love draws you into an uncanny realm of orchestral vocals, broken beats, warped synths and disorienting effects. In these ways it’s comparable to Neotenomie’s Witches or Queen of the Static Opera’s Spaceships EP. But this feels more epic and dramatic. And certainly more provocative.
“Stardom” eases you in, somewhat, with its softer, sustained chords. But sharp effects cut into the fabric. Gradually this all flows into “Blood Sword” which mixes in distorted yet captivating vocals. As things progress, a trance like melody rises in the mix. But it breaks, it sweeps. There are no easy footholds here, as you might expect if you were in, well, a dream.
“Crystal Skin (Coded I)” was the track which sold me on how special Of Flame & Love is. There’s no break in continuity from the preceding tracks. But its higher tempo builds up tension, which ramps up even more as those vocals reassert themselves. It’s like a mysterious transmission is desperate to get through.
Crucially “Crystal Skin (Coded I)” is a great example of why you need headphones. Find the best pair you can. Of Flame & Love is an immersive experience. Even in isolation, this track surrounds and subsumes you, and you should do anything you can to help to enhance this effect.
I spend a lot of time listening to works which challenge and advance what electronic music can do. Of Flame & Love is one of the purest examples of this. Writing about this is like trying to detail a dream. One without easily defined symbolism or imagery. There is a structure here, an internal logic; but ultimately this is a sensory experience of startling originality.
“Love (Valyri Integration)” is one of the few tracks which doesn’t completely flow from the previous one. It has a slow build similar to “Stardom,” although the tone is a little more mellow. Though not for long as soaring synths rise and then a teasing, rapid loop surfaces and sinks over and over again in the background. I get chills while listening to this. And this ASMR conditioning isn’t broken when a heavier beat kicks in towards the end.
I can imagine that a lot of people won’t get Of Flame & Love. And I completely understand if they outright hate it. But as the vocals on “Heaven Dust” repeatedly state ‘You know it’s just a game.’ You play Of Flame & Love and it plays you. It commands attention though, and if you stick with it, you will derive enormous value from having given it a chance
Ultimately, I’m failing to do this album justice. It’s actually pretty difficult to describe what makes it so great. But I simply had to write about it. Raise a flag and sound a klaxon, because I’ve fallen for it so hard. Of Flame & Love is an astonishing voyage through the outer limits of inspiration and expression, and I want everyone to experience it.
You can find LILLITH twin here:
That beautiful cover art was created by Poeribbon