Citing My Bloody Valentine, The Velvet Underground and Lana Del Rey as just a few of his influences, Lailien is an independent Toronto-based songwriter and producer scintillating and sky-rocketing with 100,000s of plays across streaming services the last few months whose debut album ENSŌULAR is setting new standards for pop, rock and electronica. Genre-hopping and genre-creating, listening to the LP sounds something like walking through a fairground where all the rides have sped up and gone flying off the tracks…
Twenty-six tracks – one for each letter of the alphabet – recorded over five years, designed to be listened to in order whilst at the same enabling the listener to scramble sequences according to their mood, this is an album exploring both new words and Brave New Worlds. The scrambling of songs nevertheless cohere just like how re-sequenced letters formulate pathways in language, re-arrangement of 26 building blocks of reality building novel semantic proliferations. As psychedelic as they come, Lailien’s ENSŌULAR is both his debut and his White Album – unafraid to experiment with lyrics and melody and showing a blatant disregard for convention, tracks such as Agent Amsterdam sound like shipping forecasts for seas of mercury in other galaxies.
ENSŌULAR (a triple pun of ensō-soul-solar) is an epic of immense delight, love and disclosure. Lailien explains:
“It’s an ode to language, imagination and self as multiplicity. ENSŌULAR is an exploration of the deepest, most pressing existential concerns of the human condition at our particular moment of historical crisis. It is both the recorded trace of my exploration and the archeological expedition itself for the listener to experience firsthand. I wrote it to no longer be contained by conventionally sanctioned semantics and metaphysical structures because culture has failed us. Simultaneously, I knew I had to make something that would bring joy and vivification to anyone who actually listened to it while honouring the material basis and very real struggles of reality. What is the album’s endgame? Nothing short of actualizing one’s soul and achieving nirvana. Life is immensely difficult and tragic but art can catalyze, transform and heal in utterly revelatory, enlightening ways. That’s what my favourite artists gifted me and what I seek to offer in return”.
Biographically, Lailien posits himself as the “anti-matter twin” and alter-ego of poet Brad Shubat, his historical self. Lailien’s name can be deciphered as follows: ‘Lail’ >> Arabic >> ‘Night’; Phonemically ‘Ail’ + ‘Alien’ >> Semantically, “The Ailing Night Alien” i.e. The Soul. An “extra-dimensional sorcerer, rational empiricist, psychopomp and trickster,” Lailien is a University of Toronto graduate who at one point in his life was on his way to becoming a Professor of Literature. Teaming up with Grammy Award Winner Mark Zubek who contributes essential production on all the songs, the more intimate moments of the album are reminiscent of the likes of Bon Iver and Joanna Newsom.
A cultural-omnivore, Lailien sites diverse influences such as Grimes, Animal Collective and James Blake, as well as pop stars such as Beyoncé and Taylor Swift, and academic influences ranging from gender theorist JudithButler to modernist writer Virginia Woolf. If this all seems a bit too much to take in at once, Lailien would likely say that’s one of the purposes of his music. He probably wouldn’t say it though, he’d sing it – in a coded, head-spinning manner.
Listen to ‘ENSŌULAR’: open.spotify.com