Label: Consouling Sounds
The solo project of Josh Graham, IIVII (pronounced “ivy”) have returned from 2015’s outer-space ambient fiction of Colony, with further tales from beyond our world. But whereas Colony told a tale of loneliness that emphasized the void between the stars, new album Invasion draws its fear not from being alone, but from learning that there is some kind of intelligence out there, and it does not come in peace. Though it is more immediate than its predecessor, and its narrative is more obvious, neither of these elements are to the detriment of Invasion, which is a strong continuation for IIVII.
Whilst much of the story of Colonoy was told through small details, in the case of Invasion the narrative is clear just from the song titles – certainly, the duo of ‘We Live’ and ‘You Die’ leave little to the imagination. This is the story of something alien in the true sense of the word, with thought processes humanity is unable to comprehend (as demonstrated through titles like ‘Unclouded by Conscience’). The slightly retro synths and bass hits alone conjure a considerable sense of anxiety and uncaring inhumanity, that even without the artwork and song titles would be uncomfortable enough. There is less space between the sonic elements than there were on Colony , and whilst Invasion is certainly dark, there is too much at play here for it be accurately called dark ambient, even if it bears a lot in common with the better examples of that genre. It’s certainly striving for the same kind of goals though, and achieving them in style, even if it does so with more overt melodies and musical muscularity than might be expected – and at times, it even steps over in to industrial rock territories, such as the more bombastic moments of ‘No More Enemies’.
Despite its relative accessibility (for this tone and style of music), and the narrative being more obvious this time around, many of the better details of Invasion are slightly hidden, and only begin to reveal themselves after multiple listens. As with Colony, it’s these small aspects help to add a wealth of character and detail to the narrative being presented (something that’s as true for written fiction as it is that presented through music or visual means). Given this, it would feel like a disservice to any potential listeners to describe them here, but know that Invasion is an album that respects your time and rewards patience and attention. It’s easy to imagine a lot of people who do not usually care for dark ambient being taken in by Invasion though, as the sense of narrative is communicated by strong music, and the atmosphere created is captivating.
Invasion is another strong effort from one of the most interesting musical projects out there, demonstrating that the artistic success of Colony was no one-off. There may be no happy ending within this story (save for the alien invaders), but this is a tale I can see myself revisiting for quite some time to come. This is tense, eerie, yet oddly beautiful, and hard to resist.