ALBUM REVIEW: iamamiwhoami – kin

Written for the 405

iamamiwhoami? Don’t ask me. I’ve listened to your debut album a good few times now, and I’m still not straight on all the facts. I know that you (Jonna Lee) already have a couple of albums and an EP released under your own name, and are in possession of a voice that’s like The Knife’s Karin Dreijer Andersson and Portishead’s Beth Gibbons mixed together, served over ice. I know that you (Claes Björklund) are a producer for a few Scandinavian artists and (bizarrely) the pianist for Travis.

I know that you consider kin, your first full-length, to be a “multimedia experience”, and that each song on the album has a trippy, Alejandro Jodorowsky-goes-to-the-arctic video to go with it. I know that for a while you cast these videos, with their loose, fairytale-like narrative, into the ether of the Internet, without attaching your names, or really any information at all. I know that for a while people were speculating as to the identity of the author(s) of these surreal, ethereal songs and videos, throwing up suggestions of everyone from the aforementioned Knife to Lady Gaga. I know that you don’t sound anything like Lady Gaga, so Christ knows where that suggestion came from.

I know that, divorced from the evocative imagery, the music stands up. I know that Björklund is one of those unpretentious, magpie-like producers, picking and choosing from existing genres and sub-genres of electronica with a discerning eye, refusing to be pigeonholed into one specific “scene”. Electronic music is fluid, and across kin there are tracks that sound like chiptune (the main hook of opener ‘sever’ sounds like the title screen of an eighties arcade game), there’s tracks that sound like Kraftwerk if The Robots went through a Pinocchio-style transformation into real boys (‘good worker’), there’s a dip into the murky and ill-defined pool of post-dubstep (on ‘play’, a bass-heavy SBTRKT-like two-step shuffle), and the even less-defined – but more exciting – realm of “futurepop” (epitomised on the gorgeous ‘idle talk’).

I know that I just said that the album works without the context of the videos, despite how much you might argue to the contrary, partly because it’s something that’s been done before, making a music video for every song on an album, although it’s rarely been done better. I know that I just said that, but it does help to give the songs a narrative through-line, because at times the leaps between genres are a little jarring, even though they’re of the same genus, and each is centred around Lee’s evocative, esoteric vocals.

I know that kin has all the elements for a brilliant, genre-busting, danceable art spectacle, but I’m not sure that it actually is. It sounds good, and the songs are all solid, and the project as a whole is pulled off with reasonable panache. But I still have my doubts, it still leaves me a little cold. I don’t know why. Maybe you can tell me?

6.5/10

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