What does Iamamiwhoami sound like?
Usually, artronica anthems but this time around, it’s a more relaxed folktronica affair.
The review of Iamamiwhoami – Be Here Soon
Motherhood has an interesting twist for many artists who find themselves entering a new era of their lives. It often brings out a softer album as they enter into the mother position and are bowled over by the love of the creation of life they now look after. For the Iamamiwhoami project of Joanna Lee (Ionnalee), “Be Here Soon” was released at a song each week up until the due date of her newborn child. Usually a fierce, dark and transfixed force of nature on the dancefloor, this album is a Nordic folktronica one. It is a total change of style and pace but the essence of Lee’s soul and energy is omnipresent throughout.
Whilst this change of mood and genre might surprise a few, the folk roots were there from Lee’s music before the Iamamiwhoami project. This feels like a return to old roots and the synths are here, just in a more pastel, landscaped way rather than driving the music forward. Instead, we have beautiful acoustic cascades and rustic drums on the superb “Zeven”. “Canyon” has an open and flowing electric guitar noodle for a riff and then some old-school Nordic airy synths gently adding sub melodies over the top like an ABBA mid-tempo number. Elsewhere switching to real drums for “I tenacious” allows Joanna to use her voice as an entire collection of instruments. Whilst the drums march on with oboe-styled keyboards, her voice is the synth, the melody and additional percussive elements too.
Whilst there are some tracks that edge towards the poppier side of folktronica (“changes” is the most commercial track), things stay more organic than not. In many ways, it reminds me of Goldfrapp’s folktronica albums like when they released “Seventh Tree” after two dance electronica albums. Another example is Utada Hikaru’s switch to adult acoustic pop for the album “Fantome” after years of synth-pop. This feels similar in emotion, style and transition. What it means is that tracks like the stunning “Thunder Lightning” get to benefit from pop sensibilities and lush production tweaks whilst keeping the acoustic folk side loud and proud. Other tracks like “Walking On Air”, “Flying on Air” and “A Thousand Years” benefit from Lee’s artistic emotional diving. These songs have movements, peaks, troughs and pauses for breath. Are we smashing up a dancefloor? No, this is the album for being at home, or finding home or safety within yourself or your chosen family.
The other element of the album I really appreciate is that whilst this is a motherly (and I detect generational) album, it is not all cartwheels and hugs. There are moments of ambiguity and uncertainty. Songs twist into new shapes as they morph to represent this too. “A Thousand Years” is a superb example of taking a ballad into an ethereal moody direction that you wouldn’t expect from the opening. “Zeven” has a transition to an off-kilter outro as if the world is slightly spinning off its axis. “Call My Name” explodes into a tense devotional piece with a funky bassline. There’s plenty to appreciate on the experimental front regardless of the genre change.
“Be Here Soon” is a grower, not a shower. It took me time to appreciate it. Not quite nine months thankfully, but it’s one of those albums where it’s a really pleasant first listen but it lacks that immediate anthem out the box. Then you find yourself digging back in without knowing. For fans of the Iamamiwhoami and Ionnalee projects, I find the songs stand out and shine more when interspersed with Lee’s other work too. It makes the contrast even bolder and it made me appreciate the work even more. “Be Here Soon” may be the album title, but for me, this album has now arrived.
Recommended track: Thunder Lightning
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