Beyoncé may have brought the audio-visual album to the masses, but it’s Stockholm’s iamamiwhoami, the electronic music project of Joanne Lee, who has quietly been at the forefront of this ever growing concept since 2012. This past week saw the release of Blue, Lee’s third, ten-track audio-visual experience which succeeds 2012’s Kin and last year’s Bounty.
It all began this past January, when the music video for “Fountain” surfaced online. Serving as the opening track, “Fountain” mesmerises as the sound of crashing waves fizzle in the background as soft, breezy electronics are carried by a persistent drum which ebbs away before Lee’s utterly enchanting vocal seeps through. From this song alone, it’s evident that iamamiwhoami is taking us away from the lush, greenery of the woods and forests explored in her previous bodies of work, and is instead diving into the uncharted depths of the ocean.
Over the course of the year, an accumulation of six further spectacular visuals emerged on YouTube, slowly revealing a different layer of the album. The likes of “Hunting for Pearls” and the rather experimental “Vista” encompass a more upbeat aesthetic, yet maintain a similar sense of tranquillity through the way in which Lee incorporates her vocals with the dazzling soundscapes. Those echoed musings coupled with the powerful imagery instigated by the songwriting are a marriage made in heaven: a pairing which is epitomised in “Thin,” a beautiful piece sitting towards the middle of the record.
Each individual song is an entity by itself; it captures its own free-flowing emotion. “Chasing Kites,” for example, embraces the ocean’s subtle power, it creeps up on you, sweeping you off your feet when you least expect it. Whereas “Tap Your Glass” and “Blue Blue,” touch on the softer side of the shores. They present a purer, more elegant aesthetic through Lee’s calm, fluttery vocal caressing an electronic soundbed of shimmering synths.
With almost all of its ten songs coming in at over five minutes long, it’s with “Ripple,” the album’s shortest number, where iamamiwhoami really shines. Unlike its name suggests, “Ripple” is quite the opposite. Upon first listen, you’re taken aback by its irregular production and overall disjointed feel, to the point where it comes off as turbulent. This could easily put some listeners off, breaking the graceful flow of its predecessors. However, in bearing in mind the album’s concept, it makes perfect sense. “Ripple” is the embodiment of a storm. It takes you through a sudden burst of disorientation and seasickness before you find your balance and the jittery sounds ease off to expose closing tracks “The Last Dancer” and “Shadowshow.”
Unlike Beyoncé’s self-titled visual album, Blue is an experience and iamamiwhoami has once again shown exactly why she’s the one to beat. Blue, is a masterpiece.