Ioanna Gika: Thalassa (Sargent House) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Sunday, November 17th, 2019  

Ioanna Gika

Thalassa

Sargent House

May 02, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Context is a powerful thing. It has the power to elevate just another record into the realms of the mythical. With that in mind Ioanna Gika's debut solo record, Thalassa, has a stronger start in life than most new releases.

Named after the primeval spirit of the sea from Greek mythology, this debut digs deep into this classicist imagery as a thematic touchstone and nod to her heritage. Dragging this into the modern world, this album was written in Greece during a period of grief and romantic breakdown, to a backdrop of the nation's on-going economic and social turmoil.

So far, so interesting!

Musically, it is Gika's first, truly, personal document, recalling years of collaborations, as a member of Io Echo, co-writing scores for Louis Vuitton fashion shows, with TOKiMONSTA, and giving original music to movies such as Harmony Korine's Rebel. This is all important, yet none of it matters, as Gika emerges as essentially a new artist all together.

As a gothic pop chanteuse, she floats the personal to the surface of waves of sound, as if conducted by the spirit of the sea. Haunting, yet grounded. There's a natural power to the music here, like Enya dragged through angst and turmoil.

Thalassa slots nicely into the current crop of releases from female artists pushing the art-pop envelope. There's much to love for fans of Björk, Zola Jesus, and Half Waif in Gika's layered orchestrations. The complex mix of styles draws on new-classical elements that dance with near-pop hooks and deep electronic pulses. This is music that is more pop in concept than delivery and all the better for it.

Opener, and stand-out, "Roseate" sighs into life with plucked strings, before being driven forward on a wave of nostalgic synths and hypnotic beats. Gika's high vocals are lush but steeped in despair, sounding personal but exploring the deeply political and universal themes.

"Went inland but saw statues fall/Reshaping the golden dawn," she sings, taking a swipe at loathsome Greek neo-fascist thugs Golden Dawn. These deep thematic connections are displayed with poetic subtlety; Gika weaves imagery rather than stating out right what the listener should be taking away.

Occasionally, direct points do pierce the oblique poetry, like on "Messenger," when she exclaims, "No more pension for mother or my stepdad," lamenting the period of austerity that has enveloped Greece, but overall she leaves the imagery to the mind of the listener.

The soaring orchestral strings of "Ammonite" give way to undulating synth pulses on a tune that would sit as a lost piece of Portishead's Third album. Certainly, there is an air of Beth Gibbons' fragile, haunting voice in Gika's delivery. "Out of Focus" takes an In Rainbows-era Radiohead sonic off-cut for Gika to dig deep into the loss of love via near operatic vocals.

The reference points fall thick and fast on Thalassa, and while it is all excellently realized, very little of it feels 100% Gika's creation, but more a patchwork of what makes her musically tick. Not that this takes away from what is, overall, a worthy opening salvo from an artist using her heritage and experiences to create a new aural world to reside in.

Thalassa ebbs and flows with ideas and sounds like its name-sake would suggest. Take a deep dive in to its depths and sink in. (www.ioannagika.bandcamp.com)

Author rating: 7/10

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Average reader rating: 4/10



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