iamamiwhoami – bounty album review



written by
John Hanson

John Hanson aka Johnny Rooftop is a musician and writer based in Boston. John has been focusing on his writing, performing, recording and sound engineering. Follow John on Twitter @johnnyrooftop, or visit john-hanson.com to stay up to date on all his projects.

The former mystery artist iamamiwhoami that is known for uploading ambiguous videos to youtube back in December 2009 with electronic, dance-pop music and trippy vocals turned out to be Jonna Lee, a Swedish solo artist who was vastly overlooked by the industry before this project. The music is expertly produced by her long-time collaborator Claes Bjorklund and contains a visual element that is equally important to the beginning of iamamiwhoami’s art.  These videos, directed by Robin Kempe-Bergman, show Jonna with black make-up, contain themes of nature and birth, and have titles like this one: “13.1.14.4.18.1.7.15.18.1.1110.” All this built so much mystery around the project that at first there was speculation that the uploads were coming from Lady Gaga or Christina Aguilera. The question remained all the way up until August 2011 when Jonna Lee finally took credit for the material.

Since her videos gained her popularity, iamamiwhoami has continued to release numerous music videos relentlessly, in fact this entire album was released in the form of music videos back in April 2010. The videos came out in order, titled “b,” “o,” “u-1,” “u-2,” “n,” “t,” “y,” “; john,” and “clump.” The visual element was professional and as intriguing as ever, with themes of nature and mystery, and Jonna in a limitless amount of strange costumes, depicted as an esoteric goddess woman with all black or other heavy make-up on her face. At first, her face is very rarely visable and when it does pop-up, we see a tall, light-skinned, blonde-haired Swede with electric blue eyes and interesting facial features.

iamamiwhoami released her next set of videos shortly after the bounty uploads. She used the second set of uploads to release the album kin, under her own label, To Whom it May Concern. Removed from the visual element, Jonna’s project proves to remain truly enjoyable. bounty is technically her second release, though can be considered her first based on the order of the unveiling of the songs via video uploads. Now, with bounty officially released as an album, we again attempt iamamiwhoami apart from the strange visual amazingness.

On “b,” Jonna begins our journey with spacey keys and a strange ominous, robotic effect on the vocals. Her airy choruses prove to be a theme throughout the quest. By the time the bass synthesizer kicks in, you are totally enthralled. “o” eases in, not finding its grove until the 90 second mark. Practicing patience is worthwhile for the infectious beat and a chorus that can stand up to any dance pop hit. There is a mind-bending pitch shift and phasing space elements that push the limits of the dance-pop and electronic genres, which are two types of music which rarely receive worthy praise for innovation anymore. The lyrically unintelligible “u-1″ is a sleeper but adds to iamamiwhoami’s pesona, something Jonna holds very tightly.

Then “u-2″ comes in like ride on the roof of a train during a fully charged acid trip. The electronic ballad pumps along at sub bumping levels, subject to both subtle and sudden changes. Producer Claes Bjorklund is in his element and sounds masterful.  iamamiwhoami can be thought of as an entire strange universe orbiting around Jonna’s songwriting and Bjorklund’s expertly crafted soundscapes; the singer and the beat; a goddess in her odd world. With the rises and falls of “n,” it might prove to be the duo’s most collaborative effort on the album. Listening through each lettered song, it is curious whether the first seven songs on the album are to be considered one song.  These songs are individual, but stylistically identical, which of course should be expected, seeing they are all by the same group. The take-away here should be that iamamiwhoami wants you to question their intent, they revel in the mystery that surrounds them.

“; john” seems to confirm the theory that the first seven songs are one, offering a faster tempo-ed and fresh, poppy melody. The synthesizer rips heavily and the party is on. This song could be a hit but might end up be more popular in 2033. “clump” similarly rocks and shows us that even amongst all the mystery, the group also cares about dropping heavy beats for rocking out on the dance floor (picture a dark rave with neon lights and jet-black haired, half shaved-headed alternative trendsetters losing their minds due to the combination of drugs and bass vibrations traveling through their bodies).

All in all, bounty is a futuristic, mystical and fantastic album. The iamamiwhoami project stands up very well as a purely musical experience. Because the videos were witnessed, the themes still dance in your head while listening, which was likely an intentional effect. Jonna and Claes are currently on tour sharing the live iamamiwhoami experience with their fans. Be on the lookout for future uploads or other mysterious surprises from the group, iamamiwhoami will always keep you guessing.


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