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Under the playful name of ill-esha, Elysha Zaide has made her mark from her hometown of Vancouver since the late nineties. She started off humbly enough as a house vocalist before moving into drum & bass. Then she caught the DJ bug, quickly earned her first residency, playing to twenty-odd people at a martini bar. Though she was fired when they found out she was only 16, the experience was invaluable. Soon, ill-esha was not only DJing and singing, but getting credits on records and producing her own material. Since 2001, her name has appeared on dozens of singles, while her albums and EPs have become more ambitious.

As the 2000's wore on, Zaide felt that drum and bass was becoming repetitive and stagnant. Her full-length debut The Perfect Circuit - a collection of heady, trip-hoppy downtempo jams from 2008 - showed ill-esha at a crossroads. Disillusioned with jungle and romance, but not yet wholly dedicated to bass, she locked herself in the studio. With the help of a few friends, she learned to balance live recordings with processing and synthesis, and exorcised her emotronic demons.

Around this time, as her passion for West Coast Bass expanded, ill-esha co-founded the popular Glitch Hop Forum. Through this, Zaide forged professional relationships with Mochipet (Daly City Records) and Dov (Muti Music), which would lead to seminal releases on both of their labels. As a side effect, it would also facilitate her move from Vancouver to the bass mecca of San Francisco in 2010.

As her talents in the studio developed, ill-esha has shifted focus from her vocal skills to her musicianship. Far too often, because of her gender, people assumed she was merely a singer, often asking her who made her beats after sets. As a result, she produced her first entirely instrumental album.

Released by Daly City in 2010, Circadian Rhythms silenced anyone who questioned her abilities as a producer. Zaide demonstrated her elegance in the string arrangements on "Sullen Sultry" and "Smoke & Mirrors," her intricacy in the tasteful minimalism of "Stutterfly" and the thoughtful progression of "Hunting Season," and her downright raunchiness in the dubstep moan of "Bedbug." Reverie followed in 2011, gifting Muti Music with seven more slick, boom-bap influenced, bass heavy beats.

Where her voice on The Perfect Circuit was very clean and present in the mix, the vocal on Reverie closing track "Slide Over" was chopped up and processed. Lyrics used to be of the upmost importance early on, but now she uses her voice more subtly, as a texture than a conduit of specific meaning. Thus, though her vocals are prevalent on the warping soundscape single "Black Ice" and the Elusive History EP, they flow within the compositions, rather than on top of them, showing that she has many sharp tools at her disposal.

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ill-esha: Droppin' bass in the bay

Under the playful name of ill-esha, Elysha Zaide has made her mark from her hometown of Vancouver sin…


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#1 posted by
on Feb 22, 2012

thanks, Alan, for posting this articulate and informative synopsis of Elysha's musical journey. You've really captured this talented musician's varied, unique and evolving musical styles.  jayzee in vancouver


Alan Ranta
#2 posted by
Alan Ranta
on Feb 23, 2012

Thanks so much for taking the time to read and compliment, jayzee. It's truly appreciated.

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