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Ionnalee – “Everyone Afraid To Be Forgotten” Review

Enter my contender for album of the year 2018

As a huge fan of Iamamiwhoami – both visually and more acutely in their sound, seeing the front lady and mastermind Joanna Lee break out for a solo record excited me more than almost any other news for 2018. Her album is, for me, the peak of her work so far and a truly astounding work of electronica indie pop.

The album has a very nordic ice cool vibe across its synths, hissy metal percussion and its rubbery synth bass lines. There’s music boxes aplenty, lots of creepy and Ionnalee’s voice is unique in the way she stilts her pronunciations and elongated words. All this creates a cult classic in waiting and it opens with the tick/tock, stop/start “Watches, Watches” which speaks of a time slipping by and speaks to the album title. Echoing backing vocals coo of memories lost or forgotten and there’s a cinematic drama to brass explosions which is amped up through the slow-mo “Joy” and then the absolute mind digger track of “Work”. It’s a call to action with a hot beat, brass fanfare and a warped garble proclaiming “You know we’ve got work to do!” as she tells us we can change one world at a time. It’s an activator and a dancefloor gem – what’s not to love? Also, watch out for the Night Rider bass synth!

After that anthem, the industrial slug of “Like Hell” flips between swirling ambience and razor synths which make it feel like you’re falling in slow motion and upon landing “Not Human” delivers a dark slice of pop with siren-like vocals, deep vocal samples punching melodies on the keyboard and funky riffs of the keyboards. Throughout the album, breath and voice are used percussively and its best shown here. “Temple” manages to create suspense and drama by being able to place most of its chorus on a single sustained note and then occasionally ride up the scale at the end of each second note. It sounds so simple but it’s so effective. The dark cinematic electro-pop that Ionnalee creates reaches some of most lyrically pointed with “Samaritan” which talks about being held aloft as someone better than most by being a giver. It can be taken on so many levels lyrically, and the switch between vocal speed really amps up the chorus. It’s what then makes the ethereal “Dunes of Sand” all the more poignant. It’s empty reversing synths sound like a futuristic space orchestra and allows Lee’s vocal to really be front and centre on a track with little else to distract you.

“Blazing” is a track made for gritty detective and crime dramas. The minor key humming bass lines burst into anthemic chorus codas in what is the ultimate catchy riff. “Simmer Down” is another favourite as a hypnotic and detuned arpeggio pulsates waiting to growl at you as Lee sings about gathering fire for future attacks. Its atmosphere can be cut with a knife and it harks right back to her roots creatively. After all that darkness “Here Is A Warning” is a bright explosion of electronic birdsong and Cocteau Twin inspired vocals and does well as a pause before the final run home. “Gone” is without a doubt my favourite song of 2018 to date. It’s dark electro-pop perfection. Dramatic chords, explosive transitions, meaningful yet opaque lyrics and so much going on sonically – I have had it on repeat many times. “Momento” features Barbelle from her record label and the influence is clear. The mosaic of wind instruments layered into a militant rise of chords on repeat gives way to a brighter realisation for the choruses but its an oppressive and brooding piece on the whole as it charts your minds wander back and forth looking over mementoes of previous lives. “Harvest” brings on TR_ST for a fast-paced electronica anthem. the BPM and kick drum is turned right up and it reminds me of something BT may have done at one time. It’s melodic but like a softcore rave. The album closes with the quiet “Fold” which always reminds me of synchronised swimming. It has a slow-moving tranquillity to it, even though it is really quite a complex mesh of sounds and beats.

Frankly, every track blows me away. It’s a superb complete body of work and if there’s one album that will never be forgotten by me in 2018 – it will be this. Easily a strong contender for my album of the year – the album’s only grown on me over each listen. Sublime from start to end – get it now.

Recommended Track: Gone

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