Jonna Lee aka IONNALEE aka IAMAMIWHOAMI has made a curious comeback with a follow up to her first solo outing of ‘Everyone Afraid To Be Forgotten’.
Unlike her works with IAMAMIWHOAMI, which were mysteriously messy and unsettling, the music of IONNALEE simplified matters, adding a romantic feel to her otherwise unusual disposition and ‘Remember The Future’ maintains that minimal approach.
“What will the future bring?” has been the most commonly asked question amongst electronic artists of today.
But Jonna Lee’s take on things is most likely to be compared to her Swedish compatriots of THE KNIFE or KITE, only far more musical. The album cover sees Lee and her own metal creation of a “retro space-age symbol” lurking amongst not the most comfortable of landscapes, illustrating the inhospitable feel of the opus.
Whether or not the ‘Open Sea’ has the power to suck one in with its powerful waves, Lee is prepared to fight using the medium of melodic pop, building up into an explosion of newly found positivity in the otherwise gloomy outlook. Perhaps becoming somewhat delirious, raising up to higher heights is induced by the “meds (that are) wearing off” on ‘Wipe It Off’, where the scratch is only bleeding and bleeding.
The break comes on ‘Some Body’, which stands out as an irregular synthwave track, a true example of Novelty Synthpop. The “good times” are wholesome and things are looking up, forgetting the threats and dropping the otherwise dystopian themes.
The lofty mood is brought down on ‘Matters’, a noteworthy collaboration with Zola Jesus. This lengthy track calls for unity against the impending disaster, floatingly leading into the heart of what’s important, gathering allies and warning against narrowmindedness. Lee’s voice plays around Zola Jesus’ powerful vocal bringing deeper meaning to the lyric “raise our voices”.
The eponymous track represents the easier listening qualities of IONNALEE’s propositions bridging the romantic past with uncertain future, while ‘Race Against’ stacks the Tetris gravitating between the gentile and harsh, outwardly and terrifying.
Jennie Abrahamson joins Lee on ‘Crystal’, a punctuated romance in a bottle, where the slower pace strokes senses with delicate rhythms like vintage Janet Jackson ballads. ‘Silence My Drum’ with its Celtic qualities graduates into a blistering extravaganza of pure pop, while ‘I Keep’ distorts with sci-fi elements and futuristic plug-ins.
The biggest surprise comes in the form of the cover of ‘Mysteries Of Love’, the iconic Angelo Badalamenti ‘Blue Velvet’ song with lyrics penned by David Lynch, originally performed by Julee Cruise and later brought back to life by Kid Moxie. Supported by RÖYKSOPP, Lee shows off a different side of her femininity, stealing the moment with angelic voices and big synth leads.
Jonna Lee has made herself a little masterpiece: “It’s a hopeful visionary album of daring to dream, and shooting for the stars, despite the paradoxical underlying chafing knowledge that we are destroying our planet. To me, the album has a kinetic energy. I felt much more confident and free when producing it, both as an artist, person and a producer.”
Ever bought an album on the strength of a single, only to find that “this is not the single I am looking for”??
As long as there has been a music business, artists and producers have been forever tinkering with their work. Sometimes it is to improve an album track for single release by remixing or even re-recording it. Or it is vice-versa to create a new vision for a song or just to make it sound more like the material on a latterly recorded long player. But in many cases, it’s the version that was made for mass consumption through radio play that remains superior and best loved.
This list celebrates the frustration of being stuck with the wrong version and the dilemma of whether to shell out extra cash to go out and buy the proper version.
Restricted to one single per artist and presented in chronological and then alphabetical order, here are The Electricity Club’s 25 Single Versions That Are Better Than The Album Versions…
JOHN FOXX No-One Driving (1980)
While ‘Metamatic’ is an iconic long player and includes ‘Underpass’, its second single opted for a reworking of ‘No-One Driving’, rather than the more obvious ‘A New Kind Of Man’. Much busier and expansive than the comparatively tame album version, it provided JOHN FOXX with another Top40 hit, something which had eluded him in ULTRAVOX who interestingly also produced a better single version with ‘Quiet Man’ from ‘Systems Of Romance’ while he was in the band.
Available on the JOHN FOXX boxed set ‘Metamatic’ via Edsel Records
On OMD’s debut self-titled album, ‘Messages’ just a song with potential as a single. Utilising a pulsing repeat function on a Korg Micro-Preset shaped by hand twisting the octave knob, it was decided to re-record ‘Messages’ for its single release. Produced by Mike Howlett, the new version included the addition of separately recorded drums for a cleaner snap alongside the basic primary chord structures and one fingered melodies to produce a magnificent UK chart hit that reached No13.
Despite being alongside DEPECHE MODE, SOFT CELL, BLANCMANGE and THE THE on the now iconic ‘Some Bizarre Album’, B-MOVIE were unable to secure a Top40 chart entry with the poignant magnificence of the Mike Thorne produced ‘Remembrance Day’. The struggle for success coupled with internal tensions led to the band fragmenting by 1983. Finally releasing an album in 1985 on Sire Records entitled ‘Forever Running’, it featured an inferior re-recording of ‘Remembrance Day’.
The combination of obscure lyrics from Ian Burden like “Stroke a pocket with a print of a laughing sound” and a screaming chant gave THE HUMAN LEAGUE their breakthrough hit. Produced by the late Martin Rushent, bursts of Roland System 700 white noise were trigged from an MC8 Micro-composer for the rhythm track. But for the subsequent ‘Dare’ album, ‘The Sound Of The Crowd’ was reworked with a Linn Drum and with the chant also pushed back, it lost much of its dystopian tension.
More muscular and dynamic, ‘The Art Of Parties’ explored a funkier template was a move away from the mannered Roxy muzak that JAPAN had been associated with. Originally produced by John Punter, when it came to the album ‘Tin Drum’, new producer Steve Nye smoothed off some of the track’s tribal weirdness and muted its brassy punch. While the end result was tighter, synthier and had more melody, the band preferred to play the original single version live…
The first track on side two of the last two JEAN-MICHEL JARRE albums provided the trailer singles for radio and ‘Magnetic Fields’ was no different. But in a new approach, the French Maestro offered up a toughed up remix where the klanky lightweight tones of the Korg Rhythm KR55 were replaced by bangier drum samples while the synth stabs on the bridge were turned up. But as Jarre’s audience preferred albums, this superior remix got lost over the years and missed inclusion on his many compilations.
Everyone knows the wonderful hit single version of this Northern Soul cover with its hypnotic Roland Compurhythm running all the way through it. But for the ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ album, ‘Tainted Love’ was shortened by 2 seconds while the second phrase became the first, thus strangely muting the emotive impact of the original single. Annoyingly, this inferior version crept onto the first SOFT CELL compilation ‘The Singles’ and the more recent ‘Keychains & Snowstorms’ collection.
With its iconic honky tonk piano line, ‘Party Fears Two’ was a magnificent song about dealing with the perils of schizophrenia. It also kick started a brief period when ASSOCIATES subverted the UK charts with an avant pop approach that fitted in with the Synth Britannia template of the times. A Top10 hit and emotive to the nth degree, the original single version is still the best and total perfection, while the longer album remix with its ambient intro and stop ending lost some of the magic.
The original ‘Height Of The Fighting’ from the second side of ‘Penthouse & Pavement’ was sonically an extension of ‘Travelogue’, Martyn Ware’s last album as a member of THE HUMAN LEAGUE. The more commercial single version took the funkier approach of the first side of ‘Penthouse & Pavement’, adding synthetic drums and a meatier bass synth attack. Also featuring the BEGGAR & CO brass section who had already played on records by SPANDAU BALLET, it was a glorious electronic soul hybrid.
Led by Iva Davies, the song which got Australian combo ICEHOUSE noticed by a wider audience in the UK during their tenure opening for SIMPLE MINDS was a slight reworking of the chilling synth laden ‘Icehouse’, the title track of their debut album from when the band were called FLOWERS. Featuring a strange offbeat and the mannerisms of GARY NUMAN before blitzing out for the song’s flanged guitar climax, ‘Icehouse’ was easily as good as anything on VISAGE’s eponymous debut.
Having been outflanked by DURAN DURAN in the New Romantic debut album stakes, SPANDAU BALLET explored Britfunk with ‘Chant No1′, but then took a strange about turn with their next album ‘Diamond’ featuring a number of ethnic art pieces. Fresh from working with ABC, Trevor Horn reworked Richard James Burgess’ understated production of ‘Instinction’ from the album. Throwing in extra synths played by Anne Dudley and extra bombastic percussion; it effectively saved SPANDAU BALLET’s career.
Still Matt Johnson’s finest five minutes as THE THE, ‘Uncertain Smile’ on its single release featured a wonderfully rigid TR808 pattern, lovely layers of synths and a variety of woodwinds including flute and sax. Produced by Mike Thorne, this fuller sounding and more emotive take far outstripped the bland and overlong ‘Soul Mining’ album cut produced by Paul Hardiman which included the extended boogie-woogie piano of Jools Holland tagged onto the end…
Inspired by the burgeoning New York club scene, Rusty Egan brought in John Luongo to remix ‘Night Train’ from ‘The Anvil’ album much to Midge Ure’s dismay; it lead to the diminutive Glaswegian ending his tenure with VISAGE. But Luongo’s rework was sharper and more rigid, pushing forward the female backing vocals to soulful effect in particular and replacing the clumpier snare sounds of the original album version with cleaner AMS samples.
Extended version available on the compilation boxed set ’12”/80s – Volume 2′ (V/A) via Family Recordings
At over eight and a half minutes, the album version of ‘Sister Surprise’ on the ‘Mad Max’ inspired ‘Warriors’ was far too long, plus something was missing. For its single release, this slice of synthetic funk rock was shortened and sharpened, while a new vocal hook was added over Numan’s now ubiquitous “woah-oh-oh” refrains which provided a much better chorus. Despite this improvement and an appearance of ‘Top Of The Pops’, it was the lowest charting GARY NUMAN single to date…
“Somebody’s fooling around…” – the ‘Seven & The Ragged Tiger’ album sessions had not been a happy experience for DURAN DURAN with the prolonged mixing leading to a fall out between bassist John Taylor and producer Alex Sadkin. ‘The Reflex’ had potential but this was not fully realised. Enter Nile Rodgers who gave the track a rhythmic lift and played around with the then-new innovation of sampling, using various vocals to create new hooks and phrases for a monster international hit.
Available on the DURAN DURAN album ‘Greatest’ via EMI Records
Comedian Lenny Henry summed things up best in a sketch where he entered a record shop to buy a single and was then offered a plethora of versions by the assistant:”I JUST WANT THE VERSION THEY GOT RIGHT!” – ZTT’s marketing exploits with 12 inch mixes are well known, but they played around with album versions too and with the version of ‘Two Tribes’ on ‘Welcome To The Pleasure Dome’, they got it wrong and took out the piper call middle eight!
Available on the FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD album ‘Frankie Said’ via Union Square
There once was a time when it was not cool to like ABBA but BLANCMANGE changed all that with their version of ‘The Day Before You Came’, a song many regard as the last ABBA song. Combining that noted Swedish melancholy and melodicism with the artful quirkiness of Synth Britannia, the more compact single version produced by Peter Collins considered improved on the ‘Mange Tout’ album version helmed by John Luongo and made more of Neil Arthur’s deep melodramatics.
The collective strength of A-HA over the years has been to produce great melancholic pop in that classic Nordic tradition, but also add a contrasting glorious optimism. The photogenic trio have offered many great ballads over the years such as ‘Stay On These Roads’ and ‘Summer Moved On’, but their best known one is ‘Hunting High & Low’. Originally produced by Tony Mansfield, it was dramatically remixed for single release by Alan Tarney with the addition of orchestrations by Anne Dudley.
Originally produced by Stephen Hague, ‘Suburbia’ was a good if slightly underwhelming album track from ‘Please’ that got transformed into a more fully realised epic in a re-recording produced by Sarm West graduate Julian Mendelson. Complete with barking dogs, widescreen synths and thundering rhythms, the more aggressive overtones in the single version of PET SHOP BOYS‘ clever social commentary made ‘Suburbia’ a big hit, particularly in West Germany.
With DEPECHE MODE’s Trans-Atlantic breakthrough album ‘Music For The Masses’, the good but meandering track heading side two never realised its potential. But with PET SHOP BOYS, NEW ORDER, DURAN DURAN, ERASURE and MADONNA remixer Shep Pettibone ‘Behind The Wheel’, a funkier bassline and syncopated rhythms were added to the much better single version, giving the song a far more accessible groove that could fill alternative club dancefloors in America.
‘Republic’ produced by Stephen Hague was not the finest hour of NEW ORDER, so it was something of a surprise when London Records chose to release the underwhelming ‘Spooky’ as the fourth single from it. But it was remixed by FLUKE, a house dance trio who had already worked with BJÖRK and were influenced by CABARET VOLTAIRE and GIORGIO MORODER. Rhythmically more spacious, this superior ‘Minimix’ allowed the best elements of the song to shine.
Available on the NEW ORDER single ‘Spooky’ via London Records
Listen to the ‘So Tough’ album version of ‘You’re In A Bad Way’ and it is far too understated. With a brighter punchier recording helmed by A-HA producer Alan Tarney for the single version, the acoustic guitar was pushed back while vintage synths and a lovely ‘Telstar’ motif was added for a vastly superior rendition of the song. Sometimes more can mean more and this slice of HERMAN’S HERMITS inspired pop brilliance gave SAINT ETIENNE a well-deserved No12 hit single.
Orbit’s concept of adapting classical works was because he wanted to make a chill-out album that had some good tunes. But trance enthusiasts who loved Dutch producer Ferry Corsten’s blinding remix of Samuel Barber’s ‘Adagio For Strings’ will have been shocked if they had bought its virtually beatless parent long player. Sounding not unlike JEAN-MICHEL JARRE set to a 4/4 dance beat, this single version actually reached No4 in the UK charts.
In a poor period for Andy and Vince, the ‘Loveboat’ album’s problem wasn’t just the emphasis on guitar driven dynamics, but it also lacked the usual ERASURE charm despite production by Flood. Even the album’s one potentially great song ‘The Moon & The Sky’ was missing an uplifting chorus, something which was only fixed with the Heaven Scent Radio Rework version by Jason Creasey that was later released as an extended play single.
With vocals by KINGS OF CONVENIENCE vocalist Erlend Øye, ‘Remind Me’ was one of the highlights of RÖYKSOPP’s excellent debut album ‘Melody AM’ which fitted in with dance music culture’s penchant for chill-out. But for single release, the track was given a more rhythmic KRAFTWERK styled feel via ‘Someone Else’s Radio Remix’ by Marisa Jade Marks. The track drew in new listeners, although they would have had a major shock to the system on hearing the album original…
Available on the RÖYKSOPP download single ‘Remind Me’ via Wall Of Sound
Now onto album number three and without original musical partner Tomas Greenhalf, Ryan James continues to hone and develop his hybrid mix of luxuriant synthetics and subtle guitar textures as MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY.
Already preceded by three singles ‘Remember the Bad Things’, ‘Lafayette’ and ‘Achilles Heel’, ‘Infinity Mirror’ features another nine tracks and doesn’t deviate too far from the template that James has developed so far on previous longer form releases ‘King Complex’, ‘Foe’ and ‘Maximum Entropy’.
The album feels more electronic and slightly more contemporary because in the main, it lacks the presence of the breakbeat style drums that were a signature feature on earlier material such as ‘Puppets’.
Album opener ‘Preface’ features a combo of highly processed glitched vocal effects and the kind of ethereal guitar that THE XX used to do so well. ‘Lion Mind’ combines a shuffling drum loop reminiscent of DUBSTAR’s classic ‘Stars’ and some quirky high pitched synth lines. For those already familiar with MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY lyrics, much of the narrative here comes across as ultra-personal with the main hooks “running from the rest of my life” and “my lion mind has disappeared” displaying an open insecurity.
‘Remember The Bad Things’ has a synth hook in the style of THE BELOVED style (MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY have previously covered ‘Sweet Harmony’) melded to a chord progression inspired by THE CURE. Despite the title, there is something curiously life-affirming about ‘Remember The Bad Things’ and the sampled guitar power-chords drive the song to an epic conclusion.
‘Beta Blocker’ is arguably the biggest deviation in sound on ‘Infinity Mirror’, with a huge ‘Dr. Mabuse’ synth bass sound and ZTT-style production (replete with Fairlight Orchestra samples). Rippling filtered synth arpeggios which echo the omnipresent ‘Stranger Things’ theme bring the song to its conclusion.
‘Lafayette’ remains an utterly gorgeous track, listening to it is akin to relaxing in an electronic bubblebath; 808 percussion and beautifully understated guitar subtly underpin the track which is easily the stand-out on ‘Infinity Mirror’. Titled after the forename of L Ron Hubbard (science fiction / fantasy author and latterly Scientology leader), the lyrics are peppered with subtle references to the cult of Dianetics and ends with the cryptic hook “wrap me up inside your blackout curtain”. Don’t be surprised if ‘Lafayette’ ends up in The Electricity Club’s end of year best of…..
‘Skeletons’ is a waltzing piece, with backwards drum-loops and 8 bit Nintendo synth sound, whilst ‘Achilles’ Heel’ takes the album in a 4/4 direction with a welcome resuscitation of the classic Korg M1 house piano and organ bass sounds. Also worthy of mention is the brilliant vocodered synth vocal solo at the end, probably the best of its kind since the one featured on MYLO’s ‘Drop The Pressure’.
‘Infinity Mirror’ ends with the almost ambient title track; epic sweeping synth pads and echoed vocal textures slow the pulse down and take the listener into a dream-like state before the song builds to a crescendo and quickly descends into a sudden cacophony of noise.
Criticisms? There is but one, the auto-tuned over-processed vocal effects can get a bit wearing as they are present on all of the songs, but they do suit the lush synthetic aesthetic here and the attention to detail with their production is nonetheless technically brilliant.
The fact that ‘Infinity Mirror’ is primarily the work of just one musician is incredible, there is SO much craft and melody on show here you will struggle to hear a better electronic album this year – this is absolutely outstanding.
MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY is the musical moniker of Welsh musician, vocalist and producer Ryan A James.
Initially a duo, MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY emerged in 2007 and produced two-acclaimed studio albums; ‘Foe’ and ‘Maximum Entropy’, which mixed wall of sound synths, live drum breakbeats and textural guitars.
MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY will release a new Pledge Music-funded album entitled ‘Infinity Mirror’ on 26th October following the release of earlier singles ‘Remember The Bad Things’, ‘Lafayette’ and current release ‘Achilles’ Heel’.
James describes the new work as “an anxiety-fuelled indulgence in retrospection” and kindly spoke to The Electricity Club about its gestation, collaborating with RÖYKSOPP and the importance of crowdfunding.
Your stage moniker was inspired by not fitting in anywhere musically. Do you still feel the same in 2018?
Not so much. In hindsight it seems a little arrogant to believe that your music is so unique that it doesn’t fit into any categories! Though, there was a prominent rock and metal scene happening in South Wales during the birth of MWC, which certainly played a part in choosing the name. I’ve always felt a distance between myself and where I’m from and I don’t think that’ll ever completely go away, but I now see it as more of a positive thing.
You are a multi-instrumentalist, adept at keyboards, synths, guitar and drums. So what do you regard as your first instrument?
Well that’s kind of you, but I don’t really see myself as a technically good musician, nor a multi-instrumentalist. One thing I will say is that I think I’m pretty good at figuring out how to get the most out of my limitations.
I have no idea why but I started playing the cornet when I was around eight years old, before switching to keyboards and piano soon after.
I was probably too young to have a genuine passion for either, and puberty would later derail my musical pursuits. It wasn’t until I reached my mid-to-late teens that I discovered guitars, but having music embedded in me from an early age definitely made it easier to pick up new instruments fairly quickly.
When MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY essentially became a solo project, did technology make it far easier to accept the situation, both for studio and live work?
Definitely, but I think MWC has always been heavily reliant on technology. I also experimented as a solo artist under the name SECULAR GHOST a couple of years ago, which gave me the vision and confidence to try something new with MWC.
Do you feel any kinship with other ‘solo’ acts like MAPS and EAST INDIA YOUTH?
I’m not as familiar with MAPS’ work, but I’m very much a fan of EAST INDIA YOUTH. We’ve shared a couple of festival stages, which is where I first discovered his music, and we’ve since chatted online a couple of times. I really love his first two albums.
You’re probably best known to the wider public for your RÖYKSOPP collaboration on ‘Sordid Affair’; how did this come about and how did the track develop as you were working on it?
They were looking for vocalists, and I guess I was in the right place at the right time! I honestly didn’t think it would happen at first, as they asked to hear my isolated and dry vocal before they’d confirm a recording session. Like myself, they are perfectionists, which basically just means that you struggle to settle on or even finish things. I’d be recording vocal takes with Tørbjorn in one room, whilst Svein was still working on lyrics in another. But having that last-minute pressure really helped us gel together.
‘Puppets’ from the ‘Foe’ album appears to be one of your tracks that has remained a favourite of both yourself and fans?
I would have to agree. It’s aged pretty well in my eyes, and is probably the one that still gets mentioned most often.
There was an amusing Tweet recently where someone expressed their love for your music but disliked your look. What are your thoughts about the pros and cons of social media with regards to the promotion of your music? Can image be separated from music?
To be fair he had a point. I was in the studio six to seven days a week and my physical appearance had begun to take its toll. Thankfully, the album is now finished and I have around eighty percent less facial hair. It’s a fairly new approach for me, having my face plastered over things. I suppose I’m just trying to be more authentic these days, rather than a silhouette.
You often get tagged within the ‘Shoegaze’ genre, how do you feel about that and are there any particular artists from that original scene who’ve inspired you?
It’s become somewhat redundant, I must admit.
I’m happy with the categorisation, though, and I’m still a big fan of artists such as SLOWDIVE, MY BLOODY VALENTINE, COCTEAU TWINS etc.
Do you have a “go to” synth or piece of equipment when you are producing your music?
It often begins with my Prophet ’08, or most recently the Juno 60 that I’ve had on long-term loan. I also picked up a DX7 right as I was finishing the album, and in general I’ve started using FM synths a lot more. I have a feeling that the DX7 may be the new “go to”, which could end up changing my sound quite drastically. But I think it’s time for a change.
How important has the PledgeMusic model been for the upcoming album?
Massively important. Given my situation I’m not sure how I could have done it otherwise. It gave me the push I needed to finish the album within a timeframe, though I did go over it ever so slightly, but I decided not to give myself too much of a hard time about that. It’s also taken away the strain of financing everything, such as manufacturing physical items, and it even managed to help pay for a music video. It’s also been a great way to connect with fans.
On your PledgeMusic page there were some pretty interesting options for new album ‘Infinity Mirror’; the most intriguing one being your offer of covering a song. You say that you’ll cover any song “within reason”, The Electricity Club are curious as to where you would draw the line with this offer!
I probably would have vetoed anything that’s popular at the minute, ie DRAKE, POST MALONE etc. It all just sounds like half-arsed, uninspired nonsense to me!
You appear to have really embraced the return of vinyl. As an artist, how do you feel about its return?
It’s not like I have a vast collection of my own or anything, nor do I really listen to vinyl personally other than for the purpose of sampling. I guess I have always found it important to have something physical to represent a body of work.
I have considered a vinyl mid-life crisis, when the time comes. As much as I think Spotify is great, I do also think it’s a shame that music is mostly consumed via smartphones.
You have referred to your MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY project as a “phantom limb”, what did you mean by that?
I meant that I’ve always felt its presence, even when I thought it was gone for good.
Please describe the genesis and realisation of your recent single ‘Lafayette’…
It’s really a song about the end of a relationship, disguised as a song about Scientology, and how defectors of Scientology are disowned by their loved ones. The name comes from the religion’s founder L Ron Hubbard, aka Lafayette Ron Hubbard.
Apart from the new album, what else is coming up for MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY?
I’ll be doing a handful of shows, including some dates with IONNALEE in Prague and Berlin in October, as well as a special album release show in London on November 26th. I hope to tour some more in 2019, but other than that it’s all about the new album! I have some ideas about what I want to do next, but right now I want to allow some time to take stock.
The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Ryan A James
IONNALEE made her London live debut appropriately at Heaven and like her recorded work, it was a full-on audio / visual experience.
The vehicle of the mysterious Swedish singer / songwriter / producer / filmmaker Jonna Lee, the memorable presentation comprised of a powerful electronic soundtrack, engaging performance art and striking but unimposing visuals.
IONNALEE is both a new start and the continuation of a story that began with IAMAMIWHOAMI, her previous project with producer Claes Björklund which produced three enticing bodies of work in ‘Bounty’, ‘Kin’ and ‘Blue’. And although Björklund has been involved behind the mixing desk under his BARBELLE moniker for the acclaimed ‘Everyone Afraid To Be Forgotten’, it is Lee’s debut long player as a solo artist.
But before the main act, the eager audience were treated to a fine half hour set from MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY, the stage name of Welshman Ryan James. Operating in not dissimilar sonic territory to MAPS, his last album ‘Maximum Entropy’ was in 2015.
However, the new single ‘Remember the Bad Things’ has acted as an enticing trailer for a new body of work ‘Infinity Mirror’ to be released in the Autumn.
Combining a mastery of synth, guitar and drums, James’ set also included the percussive cacophony of ‘Entropy’, the dreamy but urgent ‘Puppets’ from his 2012 album ‘Foe’ and an excellent rendition of ‘Sordid Affair’, his wonderful collaboration with RÖYKSOPP from their last opus ‘The Inevitable End’.
No stranger to collaborating with RÖYKSOPP herself, Lee began her show with the frantic oddball drama of ‘Work’ and ‘Not Human’, an electro-Eurovision tune that could be best described as ABBA’s ‘Summer Night City’ on acid!
Delightfully odd in her white catsuit with many kooky exaggerated mime movements supported by a similarly attired girl / boy dance duo, the show enjoyably came over rather like Kate Bush at a rave, meeting The Man Who Fell To Earth.
A section of the IAMAMIWHOAMI catalogue was delivered via the widescreen air of ‘Fountain’, the moody ‘Chasing Kites’ and the rigid arty synthpop of ‘T’, each making fine use of Lee’s characteristic Scandifolk vocal style.
Meanwhile ‘Play’ from ‘Kin’ offered some enigmatic downtempo weirdness as an interlude to the space age discothèque format of the evening.
With IONNALEE being more upfront and less abstract than IAMAMIWHOAMI, guest contributions have been a feature of ‘Everyone Afraid To Be Forgotten’ with TR/ST and Jamie McDermott of THE IRREPRESSIBLES both figuring.
Quietly charismatic, McDermott quietly took to the Heaven stage to add his dulcet tones for the glorious duet ‘Dunes of Sand’ and after Lee’s Nordic rap on ‘Samaritan’, returned to join her on the ‘Bounty’ track ‘Y’.
For the well-deserved encore, the CHVRCHES-like ‘Gone’ and the meditative wash of ‘Blue Blue’ marked the journey home before a brilliant funked up update of ‘Goods’, one of the highlights from ‘Kin’ with its classic swirling synth attack.
All-in-all, it was a terrific and unforgettable night of dynamic electronic pop presented as colourful and dramatic theatre.
And with change left over from twenty of your English pounds, IONNALEE is the perfect escapist tonic in these slightly more turbulent socio-economic times as the hottest value-for-money ticket of 2018.
The ‘Everyone Afraid To Be Forgotten’ tour continues throughout 2018, dates include:
Copenhagen Lille Vega (18 May), Stockholm Slaktkyrkan (19 May), Moscow Red Club (9 June),
Saint Petersburg Stereoleto (10 June), Cardiff Festival of Voice (16 June), São Paulo Cine Joia (23 August), Rio de Janeiro Queremos! Festival (25 August), Göteborg Statement Festival (31 August), Kiev Bel Letage (12 October), Prague Meet Factory (13 October), Berlin Berghain Club (17 October)