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Ionnalee – Remember the Future Review

Sci-Fi synth pop diaries from tomorrow

After making my album of the year in 2018 with ‘Everyone Afraid to be Forgotten’, I was surprised that just 17 months later Ionnalee would return with a new album. With its title, ‘Remember the Future’ sets its stall out to be the sister album to its predecessor. Yet whilst that album was dark, angry, aggressive and defiant, this album is easily the most chilled out and dreamlike of Ionnalee’s career.

‘Open Sea’ is probably the closest stylistically to Ionnalee’s previous work. It has a catchy but unusual time signature for its chorus and hooks before transitioning into a cinematic synth-pop marching finale. It’s here the seeds of change are sown though as the backing vocals are soft, the synths wash in and out and the arpeggiators feel celestial and glisten with hope. With ‘Wipe It Off’ being an anomaly in terms of tone for the album (if ABBA made mumblecore pop) it is from ‘Some body’ onwards where you really notice the tonal shift.

This album specialises in mid-tempo beats, subtle Vespertine-like percussive tilts and tweaks with Rokysopp synths all wrapped up with Ionnalee’s magical voice. ‘Some body’, ‘Remember the Future’, ‘Mysterious of Love’, ‘Silence My Drum’ and ‘i Keep’ all follow this formula. They offer varying degrees of hope and forward thought whilst taking their time. Do we get anthemic choruses? Yes – but you’ll be asked to swim through calm meditative breakdowns, gentle synths and cute retro computer noises. Think zen garden sci-fi space station and you’re three-quarters of the way there. It’s a very different approach as it sounds familiar but feels like it is coming from a different state of mind.

Ionnalee

Maintaining the different approach, ‘Race Against’ and ‘Islander’ are instrumentals. The former is a sci-fi ambience section which reminds me of set up tracks you often used to see on J-Pop albums. The latter has an absolutely banging second half. It’s tense bass line and claustrophobic drums are superb and shows that not all of Ionnalee’s future is bright. The other pinpoint is the near seven minute ‘Matters’ which featured Zola Jesus. Zola brings her unique vocal sound to great effect as she howls in the background. It gives the brooding track so much depth even if I was hoping for something really dark and intense. The other track with a guest on is the dreamy slow churn of ‘Crystal’. Here Jennie Abrahamson joins in alongside plenty of vocoder and an uplifting final chorus.

‘Remember the Future’ is possibly the first time I’ve ever thought of Ionnalee or Iamamiwhoami music as ‘grower not shower’. Often when an artist makes an album with a much lighter sound palette after possibly their darkest album to date it takes time to adjust. We never get the same thing twice from Ionnalee and when you mix up this album with tracks from her last album, it really lets the spacious production here breathe and shine. Give it time and this album will remember you for a long time to come.

Recommended track: Open Sea

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If you have this release, you can comment with your own score below.

Ionnalee - Remember the Future

8

8.0/10

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