Haunting, experimental and beautiful across 10 dystopian, otherworldly electronic soundscapes, IOTA PHI pushes her unique experimental-pop to its furthest limits on her debut album Homo Pauperis with some fascinating results.
Opening with the album’s intro ‘Homo Pauperis Mutation’ setting the futuristic theme for the album with a spoken word over a Blade Runner-esque electronic backdrop, IOTA PHI sets the tone, introducing the theme of the album in a fittingly un-nerving manner, creating the intense, futuristic and dark tone which is prevalent across the album. A great opener which you can imagine playing out before IOTA and her band walk on stage at a live show.
Track two, ‘Wide Awake (C Dorian)’ a previous single is the first taste we get of IOTA’s etherial, often reverb soaked, effortlessly soaring vocals. Moving between her distinctly recognisable natural vocal tone and dappled moments of pitched shifted processing, the vocals dance ethereally above the growing sea of modulated analogue synths and warm, slightly filtered dance beats to create a soundscape comparable to early FKA Twigs and the likes of SOHN, Polića and Lapalux.
Continuing her journey through her cinematic electronic production and intense, haunting songwriting, ‘In Control’ offers another layer of depth with sampled strings floating over crackling arpeggiators and swelling bass as IOTA speaks the words “I was not born a girl, I was not born a boy, I was born in control”. Atmospheric and experimental as ever, this is a prime example of IOTA’s unique approach to making music, unrestrained and unconcerned with song structures or conforming to the mainstream.
Track 4, the new single ‘Luna Moth’ is another great example of IOTA PHI’s ability to create captivating, hypnotic, atmospheric soundscapes underpinned by a dance beat and topped with an infectiously catchy yet aptly moody lead vocal line.
Elsewhere, ‘Oropos’ acts as a interlude, continuing the dark electronic theme with striking yet washing synth sounds before the album once again bursts into life with ‘Wolves Mate For Life’, my personal highlight. Emotive, honest lyricism, affecting, stunningly beautiful vocal delivery which soars over rich, multifaceted instrumentation which opens with delicate strings before growing into an intense swelling arpeggiator line. The tracks final chorus and the tracks climax, is truly breathtaking, spine-tingling and archetypal of everything that is great about IOTA PHI’s music. Here IOTA manages to balance her experimental tendencies with tender emotion to create a track which flawlessly, cohesively blends live strings with heavy electronics, it’s simply astounding.
In the later stages of the album, ‘Xipna’ opens with a beautiful picked guitar line before a fierce, choppy beat enters capturing an intensity comparable to Portisheads ‘Machine Gun’. ‘Daydream’ once again leans towards the more delicate emotive side of IOTA’s writing, once again using a blend of strings and electronics to create an affecting, otherworldly, melancholic, heartbreaking listen.
The album’s title track ‘Homo Pauperis’ reinforces the Kate Bush-esque side of IOTA’s writing, Piano lines leading the way as IOTA delivers an almost pagan sounding lead vocal with some rich harmonies dancing around the soundscape in the latter stages as heavy electronic beats with a fizzing sub bass kick full the track forward.
Closing the stunning and understated ‘I Will Be’, the album finishes on an unexpectedly optimistic note, topping off an album full of rich creativity and striking, innovative ideas and experimentation.
A stunning effort from an artist who clearly knows what they want to be and how they want to sound, Homo Pauperis is wildly experimental BUT that is totally to its merit, it’s an album of self-expression, art and intensity. This is not the album for anyone looking for an easy listen, its more considered and thought provoking – intriguing and packed with depth, moments of undeniable beauty and moments of electronic noise. It’s a stunning work of art that takes you on a journey through the depths of IOTA PHI’s mine, both musically and emotionally.
Despite the haunting, dark, experimental and pulsing nature of the album, there is also a fragile, personal, reflective and melancholic aura which give it a life of its own beyond the dystopian overarching theme, it’s relatable and at times truly moving. Perhaps the album’s dystopian message is more of an analysis of the human race’s faults in a fast paced, materialistic world than it is a futuristic sci-fi. Either way, this is a stunning album, a work of art well worth giving your time up for.