Listen to bounty while waiting for the subway and the squeals of machinery become part of it. Listen to it while driving through New England greenery and it’ll fit just as neatly. This is music that absorbs its surroundings. It’s written to accompany the surrealist shorts that Jonna Lee and the artists around her started releasing via YouTube in 2009, but it’s easily divided from them. Put it on and it flushes the ordinary with dopamine.
The collective known as iamamiwhoami create worlds with childlike abandon. Each video has the poise of a Chris Cunningham short, but with sets, props, and costumes made from commonplace materials. Monsters are born from packing tape, plastic bottles, and old rugs. Forests grow from aluminum foil. We find ourselves trapped in a cell of cardboard boxes. iamamiwhoami defamiliarize everyday objects, looking at the human world as if for the first time.
As spectacular as the visuals are, the project’s core is the music. Like last year’s kin, bounty is a lively collection of electro-pop that does lots with its limited palette. Dirty bass, industrial grinds, and trance arpeggios sparkle like new. The songs sound current, even though they’ve been streaming on YouTube for three years.
Jonna Lee is one of those rare songwriters who have incorporated the internet into their art without becoming overwhelmed by it. While iamamiwhoami embraces the free flow of media, the music itself remains tight, focused, patient. It steals us from our channel-surfing. We could click away, but we don’t—not while “o” surges to life, not while “y” glistens or “; john” fires round after round of percussion. We have every world at our fingertips. Lee keeps us in hers.
Essential Tracks: “o”, “; john”