[Reviewed by stark]
I love such surprises. You know, when I looked on the cover of this album, I thought: “What the hell, but they’ve released an album for Loki Foundation not so long ago and it wasn’t even that good”. Yup, I confused Ionophore with Ionosphere which is obviously shameful and unprofessional, but also shows that basically I had zero expectations from “Sinter Pools”. How stupid of me.
Perhaps you remember Peter’s reviews of Leila Abdul-Rauf’s solo debut and a split single with Tor Lundvall. After that, she also released a CD at Malignant. Sooner or later we’ll write a few words about “Insomnia” as well, but for now I’ll just say that it was an unexpected move from the Malignant Records bosses. Ionophore’s CD debut has also seen the light of the day through the effort of this label from Baltimore, and I gotta admit that it’s an even more daring move. Who would’ve expected such music from the guys who offered us acts like The Vomit Arsonist, Sewer Goddess and stuff (ah yes, I shouldn’t write “and stuff”).
Ionophore is not only Leila – she’s a part of a trio with Jan Hendrich and Ryan Honaker. I think though that these guys wouldn’t be angry if I said that up to this date their bandmate is more titled than them. After all, these personal trivia are not that important when faced with such extraordinary music.
I knew it would be something fresh after the first few seconds, when these noir-like saxophone melodies reached my ears. This, Leila’s vocals, dark electronic pulsations and beats, and the slightly distorted guitar drones of the first track definitely drew my attention and caused something reminiscent of chills down my spine. And believe me, nowadays this doesn’t happen often. It’s like the opening of a movie about which you feel from the very beginning that it will be a fascinating journey. It has a strong cinematic feeling where different genres mix together: noir, sci-fi, a Twin Peaks-ish thriller, dark stories about lonely vigilantes, cold and soulless technothrillers, modern yet depressing stories about love, hate and drugs taken in fancy lofts. In the press release it is described as a mix of “dark electronics and neoclassical soundscapes with heavy drones (…)”. If the word “neoclassical” caught your eye I must warn you: forget about the dull and lousy electronic pathos of inherent in the post-industrial meaning of this word. This is fresh, this is modern and thrilling. Listen to “Unchecked”, how beautifully the track develops. It’s not like red wine and sparkling diamond dresses, it’s like a chase through the rainy streets of a metropolis flashing with neon lights.
They use electronics as well as regular instruments, but often you can’t say when the live aspect ends and the digital one begins. They show a musical erudition, often implementing motifs from different genres in such a way that the composition doesn’t lose a tiny bit of its consistency and atmosphere, like those delicate 80s gothic elements in “Underground Man”. And for most of the time “Sinter Pools” is pulsating, dancing, vibrating and walking restlessly, and this feeling is infectious for the listener as well – I can’t deal with this one while laying on the bed. I have to walk around the room, tapping my fingers on the furniture and smoking cigarettes.
Yet at the same time “Sinter Pools” is so breathlessly and unspeakably beautiful and atmospheric, the drones are like forged in heaven, the sax, strings and guitars, the rhythmic parts, the mixing of dreamlike and ethereal wisps in the vein of, say, Birds Of Passage, with the dynamic pulsations of “Sequester”, the subtle industrial dirt of “12 Minutes”; a thousand emotions you can feel while dealing with this relatively short album. You know, at times it reminds me of the Canadian project Aun, but I’m not sure if it’s not even better than each and every Aun album I got. It’s official, for me “Sinter Pools” is the highlight of 2016 so far.
Leila, you’ve got me on my knees.