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"read press reviews for Somerset and They Died For Beauty"

Ilya’s 2004 debut They Died For Beauty was overlooked. Infact, it was passed over so criminally that they were released from their virgin contract soon after it’s release. Yet they were liberally showered with critical acclaim – you’ll remember their Bellissimo from those Revlon Ads and the video featuring Martin freeman – they were hailed as the best thing from Bristol for donkey’s years.
After two long years in the wilderness are they jaded
Brilliantly, they are not. Quite the opposite, actually: Somerset is the glorious delivery of all those wonderful exciting promises they made the first time around. It swims in a thick fog of classic sensuality, the songwriting having adventually caught up with Joanna Swans vintage, ethereal tones. They Died For Beauty’s inconsistencies have been ironed out to phenomenal ends.

Ilya, it would seem, have no contemporary rivals: with the exception of certain instrumental outfits ( Gotan project, Stephane Pompougnac ), nobody and nothing can touch their sparse-yet-rich arrangements; their delicately realised resolve; their antediluvian solutions to prevailing musical posers. It’s almost as if they’ve been brought to us from the 1950’s Parisian lounge scene, a crash course in all the essential transitionals thrown in along the way for good measure (Falling everywhere’s vaguely glam stomp; Wonderful’s Clapton-esque guitar sob).
Somerset’s opener September Rendezvous picks up where their Virgin efforts left off, replete with Tantalisingly delivered continental lyrics, prudent verse and an opulent chorus that burrows gently into your subconscious, snuggling warmly next to memories of Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone and hair-raisingly beautiful artists of yesteryear. In The Valley joins all the same dots in a different order before Falling Everywhere wanders confidently into the fray, wielding – of all things – what appears to be an electric guitar and effects pedal. It’s an unorthodox move on Ilya’s part, but it works. Oh boy, does it ever work.

The freshly-nurtured songwriting strength reaches an epiphanic zenith on Wonderful, a profoundly realised, softly touching piano-led love song the likes of which have not been heard for a long time. "If I fall lightly to the ground," asks Swan in her dulcet timbre; "Will you lie down and stay there with me?... Will you always be wonderful?" It's a question all too easily asked of a band given a new lease of life.

Whereas the mid-section marked the point at which They Died For Beauty fell away ever so slightly, Somerset's midriff is as toned as they come: Airborne's smokey café bass is the perfect foil for Swan's vocal flightpath; We Shone carefully ups the tempo with palm mutes, hi-hat riding and some over-dubbed harmonies that have to be heard to be believed; Winter In Vienna digs out the accordian and horns, lifting the band from the streets of Bristol to the cabanas of Havana.

And it doesn't end there: Somerset soars from ear-pricklingly good to unstoppably great; from four stars to five. Glory takes on the aforementioned GoTan Project at their own game and comes off favourably, while Juanita's skewed, insane trumpet solos lounge suggestively beside a seductive, Jessica Rabbit-like vocal track. Sealing the deal with an aural kiss, Sleepwalking propels Ilya's anything-to-hand attitude to new heights with a breathtaking mélange of double bass, capricious flute licks and some deeply inflected, throaty lines.

With their debut LP they made promises they couldn't quite keep. With Somerset, however, Bristol's Ilya have fulfilled their own prophecies and then some, meeting their most far-fetched expectations and, thrillingly, going even further. Without the slightest exaggeration, this is one of the decade's most devastatingly beautiful albums. Il y a un Dieu. Vraiment.

- David Welsh 5/5 Music OMH

"Wonderfully melodic,with intricately woven sounds that seem to bring in all types of different styles." 5/5 WLC

"The album seamlessly mines folk, glam, bossanova and swing, throughout which Joanna Swan's enchanting Billy Mackenzie-like swoon remains intoxicating.An original and highly seductive example of late night listening at it's best" MS/ CMU Newsletter.

"This is a truly remarkable fusion of different sounds" 9/10 Culture Deluxe.

"Falling Everywhere is a delicious chunk of radio-obliterating coffee-table pop that unfolds around the most delightful hook imaginable." The Downloader.

"For pretty much the whole of the summer of 2004,'They Died For Beauty' was never off my player and-having lived with it for a couple of days so far-it looks like 'Somerset' will be repeating the trick this year". Virgin Megastores.

"One can only hope this rather sublime album achieves the recognition it deserves""Sheer pleasure" DJ Hits.

"With it's mix of chill-out and smouldering intensity, jazz fans, contempory folk fans and maybe even indie fans could easily find themselves captivated by Ilya's exciting mix - All sorts!


ILYA / They Died For Beauty / Album ( released 2004)
ILYA / revelations ep (released 2003)
ILYA / Soleil Soleil ep ( released 2003)
ILYA / Bliss re-mixes. ( released 2003 )
ILYA / Somerset / album ( released 2006)
JO SWAN / Hootchi Cootchi / album ( released June 2007)
Bellissimo / Revlon Advert
Soleil Soleil / Mr Brooks / Film released 2007
Lunabee & Swan / album ( released Oct 2007 )



ILYA started work on their debut album in 2001 and 'They Died For Beauty' was released on the Virgin Label in 2004 to massive critical acclaim; delivering the band's first flagship song 'Bellissimo' (which was, and still is, used in worldwide advertising campaigns by Revlon and Cacharel).
Soleil Soleil from the same album can be heard this year in the Hollywood blockbuster,'Mr Brooks', starring Kevin Costner, Demi Moore and William Hurt.

The seeds of the 2nd Ilya album, Somerset, were sown in the January of 2004, when Nick and I along with engineer/producer Bruno Ellingham spent 5 days in Rockfeild Studios out in the wilds of Monmouthshire . This excursion was actually a side project to Ilya, something to take our minds off waiting for the release off ‘They Died For Beauty’.
We recorded 9 songs with acoustic guitar, foot-tapping and vocals, then built up the tracks with eccentric sounding vintage keyboards, pub piano, Kraftwork style synth bass-lines, bazouki, banjo, barbershop vocals from Nick and Bruno and Laurie Anderson style B/V’s from. The percussion track was made up out of anything that sounded good when thwacked, slapped or shaken ( or even ‘pwithsssed’ … which is the sound of a can of fly spray being put into action! )
The excursion gave birth to the original demo for Somerset, and a couple of months later we moved into Jim Barrs Studio in the bustling inner city of Bristol to record our backing tracks live with our favourite musicians.
We then bought everything back to our tiny woodland studio, recorded the vocals and tinkered until we were as content as musicians ever can be!
Jim escorted us on our journey as bass player, engineer and co-producer on Somerset.
The result was 12 track album released via Universal Digital Feb 2006.
Then re-released in a new package in January 2007, through CD Baby and mail order from our web-site

Joanna Swan has a voice of rare and astonishing beauty; somehow combining aspects of Ella Fitzgerald, Dusty Springfield and Nina Simone.
The range and power of this incredible vocal presence is now more in evidence on ILYA's second album, Somerset, where they have largely
eschewed the widescreen epic easy-listening of their debut.
Somerset has a rawness and vibrancy resulting from being recorded mostly live. This is very much in evidence tracks like 'Falling Everywhere', in which California Dreaming style backing vocals are somehow fused with glam klesma. September Rendezvous is a dark 50's jazz classic with injudicious outbursts of prog rock guitar, and Juanita combines swamp-blues with New Orleans jazz.
Other tracks on the album evoke 50's torch songs (with Bowie-esque 70's guitar), skewed psycho-bossas, folk, and, what seems to be, Can jamming with Karen Carpenter.