A lean, blue-hued futuristic city adorns the cover of Ikonika‘s Distractions, her first album in the last four years. It’s not clear whether the processor-like structures depict a city or the inside of a computer, which positively describes the old metaphor of cities as relentless modern machines. This place, however, is not overbearing and it does not attempt to overwhelm your senses – on the contrary, it is quiet, almost ascetic, at least in comparison to the usual cyberpunk images of future electronic cities. The music is equally lean and direct, a reduction of the relentlessly mechanical to its simplest emotional keys: great beats, short experimental voice clips, a sense of echoing space at slow speeds and considered paces. The distractions within an ordered, functional machine are not the product of spectacle but of something much more low-key, a reductive passion in which speed and light do not accelerate the heartbeat.
Instead of grand electric danceable gestures, these short tracks emit mindful pulses that tend towards short bursts of concentration always cut a tad too short. The less purely instrumental tracks barely seem to take off when they’re already ending, provoking a strange sensation of consciousness before each track: did you ever let go and integrate to the beats and the spaces opened by them, or were you about to do so? This ambiguity is one of the album’s strengths, playing with the bodily implications of most electronic music as part of a close relationship with the mind, of a self-conscious operation in which distractions are not a path towards the loss of self but the other way around. Tracks like “BGM”, barely a minute and a half in length, aid focus the background, the base upon which a few melodies are built up and given shape, and which does not prioritize the beat over anything else. If the beat represents that selfless pounding lost in a labyrinth of LEDs and brilliant pixels, the background, as a collection of electronic textures and weird tonal shifts, presents an easily recognizable linear path for attention and thoughts to follow, a simple set of blue lights over a few angular, patterned spaces.
The album has a certain unevenness to it, in the sense that the track order doesn’t always make sense, the transition between each piece not always fluid. This adds to that self-consciousness of beginning something anew, of a set of fragments that do not provide a holistic experience and which stand out much better because of it. Like the videogame music that has inspired Ikonika’s productions so far, there is a certain dependence upon the immediacy of pattern recognition, the experimental aspect of trial and error that gives games an ambience inherently tied to a music that constantly (or at least eventually) repeats. Just when you’re making sense of all the elements that compose a track, it ends: you have to try again. But once you make sense of it after a few tries, other things start to become important, you start to notice bits that were not there before, and which may or may not be related to whatever comes next. To wander in the processor-city is not to become deaf or blind with sheer spectacle, but to mind the distinct processes that give it its form, all the random interactions that give it a serene logic that apes the brain but never really comes to match its complexity. In other words, this is great music to drive around at night, figuring out the ways in which the roads connect, places affect each other, and all these micro-environments emerge, clearly and straightforwardly as a blue light-line delineating a building against the black sky. (David Murrieta)