Beyoncé might have had the element of surprise, but long before Mrs Carter’s audiovisual experience gate-crashed the charts last year, a more enigmatic and tongue-twisting Swedish duo, iamamiwhoami, had already experimented with the format on two separate occasions.
Of course, BLUE may initially attract attention for the array of striking National Geographic-style videos which perfectly complement its aquatic theme. But as with 2012’s kin and 2013’s Bounty, the pair’s latest all-encompassing affair also works well as a conventional studio effort.
Indeed, with Jonna Lee’s bewitching vocals and Claes Bjorklund’s otherworldly production, iamamiwhoami have never had a problem transporting listeners to their unique mystical world via the medium of song alone, and BLUE is no exception.
Packed with swooping operatic melodies and gleaming 80s synths, the majority of the record, particularly the pulsating “hunting for pearls” and the euphoric “chasing kites” suggests it’s more than likely that the duo were at the front row for at least one of Kate Bush’s recent comeback gigs.
Finding inspiration closer to home, the brooding closer “shadowshow” combine the magical harmonies of ABBA with the avant-garde electro of The Knife. Elsewhere, “ripple” sees the pair unexpectedly venturing into techno territory with its four-to-the-floor beats and array of blips and bleeps. This, alongside the uncharacteristically summer-y “tap your glass” which even features the odd burst of steel drums, serves to highlight that iamamiwhoami are capable of stepping outside their slightly spooky comfort zone.
In fact, if anything, BLUE would have perhaps benefitted from one or two more forays into uncharted waters, as the album only really begins to lose its enchanting appeal when the pair revert to their previous resolutely chilly sound, as on the meandering “thin” and the slow-motion atmospherics of “the last dancer.”
But it seems churlish to criticise iamamiwhoami for their lack of ambition. BLUE doesn’t always quite hit the heights of its visual accompaniment, but it’s still another impressive Scandi-pop voyage which proves that there’s substance to the duo’s weird and wonderful style.