Review Summary: Your 2021 album of the year has arrived.
I've always felt like music transcends language. It's codified emotion, and even though Iosonouncane's IRA
is mostly sung in a gibberish concoction of European and African languages, I feel
things while listening to this album that I've never before experienced: beauty so mystifying that I need to pause the music in order to catch my breath...genuine terror, to the point that I can feel my body having a physiological, heart-racing response. I've listened to hundreds of albums in the last year alone in which I've comprehended every single word, yet none of them have induced such a sincerely organic and utterly visceral response. That's the beauty of music – it can stir something inside of you that you didn't even know was there.
conjures a whirlwind of dark, twisted imagery without ever sounding ugly
. It's one of the most ominous yet jaw-droppingly gorgeous artistic expressions I've heard in my entire life. The pervading atmosphere might be described as electronic or ambient, but it's a festering, evil
smolder – not something you sink into so much as something you wake up to at 2 a.m., unable to blink while the shadows on your ceiling take shape and begin to move. It's almost like a Radiohead album influenced by Swans, a combination of daring electronic experimentation and creepy, droning soundscapes – except it's also a pop album. As IRA
navigates its nearly two hour runtime, you'll find yourself in sheer awe over the immaculate blend of sounds on display – from its eerie, dimly lit valleys to its stunning, effervescent peaks.
Through one hundred and nine minutes of intricate beauty and raw, paralyzing fear, IRA
is one long holy shit
moment. 'ashes' bombards us with its droning, repetitively echoing percussion before ascending into something of a discordant orchestra. All of that merely sets the stage for fiery, authoritative riffs layered over strange clattering and Jacopo Incani's unsettling vocal melodies. 'jabal' has the feeling of a tribal ritual, brimming with foreboding drums and manic shouts which give way to ghastly synths and apparition-like hums. The second half of 'prison' is like witnessing a plane crash to a serenade of strange buzzing noises, disconcerting screams, and thunderous percussion – all of which culminates in a spine-tingling breakdown. 'piel' possesses the closest thing on IRA
to a danceable beat, but it still manages to maintain the album's weirdness
by transitioning from a relatively straightforward set of opening verses to sweeping synth waves that ebb and flow rhythmically...almost like some kind of haunting dance. 'prière' is subdued and menacing until suddenly it isn't, a pause and brief snare-fill separating its mellow incantations from middle-eastern influenced guitar licks and endless depths of synth demonry. The epic penultimate track 'hajar' sees Iosonouncane winding and gradually climbing – unhinged chants blending with infectious melody – until it finally ratchets up the intensity and manifests in six minutes of droning. Again, these are merely snippets taken from a vast, sprawling world – it's best to dive into the full experience and let it simply wash over you.
The rabbit hole here is bottomless: IRA
is beautiful, terrifying, and relentlessly intriguing. If it has a drawback, it's almost certainly the intimidating length – of course, that should not deter anyone who is serious about exploring the imaginative and expansive realm that Iosonouncane has crafted. IRA
is one of those records that obliterates everything in its path...not through sheer instrumental force or imposition of will, but by way of the artist's incredibly diverse skill set, unhindered imagination, and a ravenous exploration of different styles of music. It's one of those rare albums where comprehension of the lyrics is not entirely necessary to appreciate the art – in fact, it sounds so impressive to me in this instinctual, human form that I'm not sure I even want to understand it word for word. IRA
is haunting, breathtaking, and evocative – a towering benchmark for Iosonouncane that may have already swept the rest of 2021 under its enormous shadow.