43:27 min • Co-operative Music • June 11 [Digital] September 3 [CD] 2012
iamamiwhoami, whoever she/he/they were, first crept onto the Internet through a series of avant-garde YouTube videos in 2010. An online frenzy ensued in which people began guessing, theorising and attempting to figure out cryptic messages within the videos. But, most of all, people wanted to know who the perpetrators behind the hallucinogenic visuals were. Speculations ranged from The Knife, Goldfrapp, Christina Aguilera, Lady Gaga to Little Boots (blonde hair was clearly the main lead in the case!). It really did feel as if a ghost was haunting YouTube for the few months the videos were being regularly uploaded by an untraceable source. However, the answer to everyone’s question was a little less obvious when it was deciphered that the artist behind them was Swedish singer-songwriter, Jonna Lee. Since these initial mysterious videos, iamamiwhoami put out a series of digital singles and have now released their first official audiovisual album, kin. Looking back, it seems quite appropriate that their early video’s imagery centred on birth, including semen-dripping trees and womb-like enclosures, since the sound of iamamiwhoami draws a line under Jonna’s previous folk-pop music to bring forth a project which is electronically-driven, with her co-producer Claes Björklund.
The album opens with the moody ‘sever’, which contains trickling synths and sweet melodies. From there the album ranges from the crunchy ‘in due order’, the wistful dream-pop of ‘idle talk’ to the trip-hop influenced ‘rascal’. All nine songs swell and pulsate, providing space for Jonna’s commanding voice and personality to blossom. One of the most enjoyable and loveable aspects of the album is her vocal delivery and effective use of reverb. One highlight, ‘good worker’, is a song which reaches melancholic, yet euphoric heights, through its soaring vocals and harrowing lyrics about submission and identity in relationships:
I make a good and steady friend, a companion through life,
But who am I, when all I am is your designated wife?
The kin videos are equally as special. We follow our protagonist, played by Jonna, on a journey of self-discovery, in which she befriends, dances with, and is subsequently captured by woollen creatures. She brilliantly takes on the persona of the album and communicates the song’s emotions with authenticity. The non-linear narrative of kin toys playfully with the notion of what is real and what is imagined, yet maintains an undertone of humour throughout. Herein lies the beauty of kin: nothing is literal in this world and leaves everything our interpretation and the imagination.
I can’t help but feel that iamamiwhoami is one of the few artists in the last decade who has fully understood and committed to the concept of a multimedia album. In recent years, several musicians have released albums with accompanying visual components. However, none have done so effectively as the material presented on kin. Though the album can stand tall and strong on its own merit, the songs really come to life when married with its ethereal and experimental visuals. Having admired their initial enigmatic videos, I feel iamamiwhoami’s gradual release approach has really paid off. Embracing the Internet as a way of communicating and releasing their work allowed them to develop their sound and execute this album with careful precision. You can tell they have put so much thought and effort into creating a narrative and music which is as real for them, as it is for their audience. Overall, kin leaves you feeling like you have walked straight into an elusive dream, which you want to return to again and again.