The track, Paint, is available via:
The E.P., Queen of Balance, is available via:
25th May, 2018
I have been given the chance….
to explore an artist who has stuck in my mind and made my heart race and conspire. I will talk about the solo songwriter and how new revelation and light continues to be explored. When it comes to IAKO; I wanted to look at the soundscapes one can produce and balancing quiet and loud; lyrical themes that are melodramatic but realistic. There are contrasts to look out for – so I will address them. I will look at unique life experiences and how they explore music; deconstructing works to get to the root of them; artists who have more to offer than simple songwriting and the cliché – I will end by looking at cross-pollinating cultures and music that has a gentleness to it. Looking at IAKO and he seems like the sort of man who might produce something Electronic and Pop-based. That sounds judgmental and stereotyping but there is something about the young man’s appearance that suggests that sort of music. That might be me getting all narrow and seeing too much – people who look like IAKO who play that sort of music – but it is pleasing discovering an artist who goes deeper and delivers so much more. I will talk about Folk edges and something softer later but, right now, let’s look at the way the British-based artist looks at dynamics. IAKO mixes the frantic and frenetic pace of life in London, where he is now, and the space and beauty of Venice (where he is from). The production is stunning whereby you get an interaction between the quiet and loud. He paints soundscapes and has a canny ear for balance and texture. Not only does IAKO write the songs and present to the people; the composition and production are so detailed and create their own little universe. What gets to me is the constant movement and how everything is physical and engrossing. You get a real view into the songs and are involved in each and every step. The artist knows a simple and uneducated production would not give the music the same depth and wonder it deserves.
What we get, indeed, is music that draws those close and tender aspects of life with the city-exploring and vast. Every note is put together supremely and this is a really personal and inspiring form of music. I want to talk about the songwriter’s transition – you get a great sense of where he came from and what he is all about. The man explores those gaps between notes and the huge divisions in music. A lot of artists are good at producing raw and energised songs: others are better when it comes to the serene and quiet. IAKO is someone who can interlock and weave those polemics into a song and not have things lose control. What I also love is the way the songs sound unique and new. A lot of artists sound like someone else and it is rather hard to distinguish from the pack. IAKO does not want to copy the pack and creates his own style and sense of personality. You get that care and attention regarding composition and sound; there are detailed and interesting stories that get into the heart and provoke thought. Paint, which I shall come to, looks at relationships and a sort of ‘end of the world’ as we know it. The song’s title is fitting: the songwriter has his canvas out there and paints brushstrokes of vivid colour and expression. That might all sound a bit pretentious and silly but there is something to be said for the sounds one gets through and how brilliantly everything is realised. I will move on from this topic but it is interesting looking at the young man work and how his music comes together. He works hard to get everything right and ensure the sounds are as spellbinding and addicting as possible. If you have not encountered his music and dived into his world of sound; ensure you get involved with the Queen of Balance E.P. and realise why so many people are so excited. I am a bit late to the reviewing party but I was keen to investigate IAKO’s work and what it is all about.
I listen to Paint – and songs on the E.P. – and there is that fusion of realistic and exaggerated. The song investigates a relationship after the end of the world. That could mean the ‘world’ as the personal and romantic. It could mean a literal ending and extinction. The song is never too hot and accelerated: the vocals are whispered and you are sucked into a brilliant story that gets into the brain and stays in the head. IAKO is like many songwriters; the need to explore the personal and romantic and resonate with the general public. If you write songs that are too oblique and strange then you are not going to get people involved. I have been looking around for musicians who write from a common perspective but can integrate new and unusual elements into the work. I am a big fan of those who are able to strike a familiar note but offer the listener so much more. IAKO has studied the market and, rather than conform with expectations and demographics; he realises what the listener wants from music and puts his personal spin on it. Someone who has such a grip on sonics and sound textures; a man who can balance extremes and make them work – this all comes through in his music. The lyrics are sharp and interesting and, as I said, look at something personal. There is nothing to suggest IAKO cannot go onto great things and make some changes in music. There are similar-minded artists like him out there who are getting some serious love and creating big waves. What I do expect to see if more material from the songwriter and further investigation of sound and lyrical possibilities. I have seen so many songwriters whose lyrics are full of tropes and really do not go beyond the average. It is a shame so many artists are being timid and unadventurous when it comes to words.
The reason IAKO sticks in my memory is down to his way with words and how they tangle with sound. Rather than compose a song and have the words sit separate, you get music that pulls everything tenderly together and leads to something wonderful. Those words relate and connect with everyone but there are phrases and expressions that are new and unexpected. It is a real listening experience and everyone is touched in a different way. I have not heard a lot of IAKO’s previous music but am compelled to check him out and follow his plight. There are a lot of songwriters out there but he seems to stand out and is venturing into fresh territory. Those contrasts and extremes are what makes his music so engrossing. I will use these words – ‘extreme’ and ‘engrossing’ – but that seems to hit the mark. You are sucked into a wonderful world that carries you a long and gets you thinking. If he were to write in rather average terms – looking at love and life like everyone else – then you would not be too moved and involved. I will shift to another subject but it is interesting seeing where IAKO has come from and what he is writing about. There were occasions, when he was growing up in Venice, where he had to be rescued from canals by his mother. There are plenty of them around so one can forgive the odd slip and fall. It seems there was a fascination to water and the beauty of the city. The young IAKO would go exploring and wanted to get closer to his surroundings. That tangible connection was, perhaps, a little too much but his mother was there to save him. The young man has retained that intrigue when it comes to canals and the natural world. There is more to IAKO than a few childhood experiences and being saved from the brink.
Literature and philosophy come into his work. Greek and Roman works are important and the talented artist borrows semblance and words from the masters. He has that interest when it comes to old-world figures and how life was back then. As such, one gets a new songwriter whose mind and spirit is bonded by what came before. I am not suggesting he lives back then and is trying to cast himself as a Roman writer. You do get a sophistication and classical mind in the music, though. I love how IAKO can mix the urgent and modern with something from long ago. He is great at those world fusions and drawing disparate plains into a whole. IAKO is still young but he has experienced movement and change. All of these details and colours come through in the music. It has been a life lived well and one that relies on a curious mind and determination. IAKO did not find a viable route into music until the age of nineteen – he has been making up for it since! You feel music was always part of his life and engaged his brain from childhood. I was struck by music around the age of six or seven and have followed it ever since. I am one of those people who remembers when and how music arrived and the sort of artists I fell for back then. I assume IAKO is the same when it comes to those early memories. I can imagine there was a blend of local and national artists together with the best of the U.K. and U.S. Given his love of literature and culture; you have that sophisticated edge – that is paired with an accessible and relatable sound that we will all be familiar with. Folk artists such as Lisa Hannigan and James Vincent McMorrow come through; you get touches of Erik Satie and Yann Tiersen in there. Mixing the modern wonders with established icons is a hard balance to pull off. The man is all about balance and has made a career out of unifying disconnection and creating a fresh and extraordinary world.
Before I come to look at the music itself; I want to address a couple more things. I am interested in music that is made up of so many different strands and ideas. Yesterday, on BBC Four, I was watching a classic album series that featured Graceland as its subject. This documentary was filmed in 1987 and interviewed Paul Simon and the artists involved in that record. It was fascinating seeing Simon play various parts of songs and explaining his lyrics. Tracks like Graceland and The Boy in the Bubble were taken apart and explained. He was in the studio and fading various tracks down. He would isolate the bass or a drum part; he would chat about Ladysmith Black Mambazo and how they managed to add their magic to the album. Various members of the group explained their role and it was great seeing how the songs came together. The reason I mention this is down to IAKO and how he approaches recording. You get the sense he puts as much of himself into the music as Paul Simon did back then. Rather than farm his songs to someone else to control them and add their print; the songwriter is curious to know how various elements can sound better and what the song means. Simon, in the documentary, looked at songs changing form and slaved over details to get a sound that was perfect. Modern songwriting is something we associate with quick turnaround and speed. We do not consider artists locked in a studio and spending a lot of time over the material. That might be true in some quarters but there are plenty who put effort and serious time into their work. IAKO has that tactile fascination with the natural world and history; he loves to explore and is interested in the human condition and psychology. One would expect a man, who has all this on his side, to be involved with every process and angle of recording.
IAKO does not sit back and provide minimal interaction. The man knows what his music will sound like and, whilst not as busy and layered as stuff on Graceland; you do get real attention to detail and phenomenal results. It would be good to see IAKO pull apart tracks and explain how the music came together. It is the lyrics that get to me and I wonder how they started life. We do not often question and study music these days – because there is so much rushing to the mind – but there are occasions where songs and artists warrant more time and focus. It is a great experience watching an IAKO song form and how it gets into the senses. I can imagine he would sit at home and gradually build a work. Starting with a germ of an idea; that would then grow and mutate as we go along. Whether inspired by an observation or favourite literary work…from there, we see the song flourish and get stronger. I want to go back to the start, with artists, and discover where songs come from. When I interview people, I always ask what the story is behind their material. IAKO is one of those people who has already led a vivid and rich life – he is entering a new phase and about to step into a whole new world. His fan numbers are growing and it seems more and more traction is being created. I am a new fan but can see how he has grown and the evolution visible. If you feel IAKO is rather ordinary and easy to understand then you are not listening to the music closely enough! He brings together his young life in Italy and what he saw around him with the bustle of London and how things have changed.
I will tip my hat to Italy and how he manages to retain some of home and that world with the modern-day sound of London. A lot of artists try to stretch their music and put as much detail into the work as they can. They may have lived in various countries and want to bring that in through the music. It is good to see that happen but many of them fail to create anything long-lasting and new. With IAKO, you have this man who has grown up around culture and taken it all in. He has had these close-call experiences (in canals) but involved himself with art and great works of literature. Then, when music became a big part of his life, he has come to the U.K. and followed that passion. I am sure there were times when he was doubting his career choice and did not think he would make it. You get a man who is always pushing boundaries and keen to step into new ground. Because he has had these experiences and learned a lot through time; he has managed to bring this to the music and explain to the listener where he has come from and where he is headed. The ambition comes through and one can hear how much music means to IAKO. It is not about sounding like everyone else and going into music because there is nothing better to do. You get real passion and defiance in every track. Even if the music is whispered and low-sung; you can hear and feel the intensity and meaning of the songs. I am a fan of Folk and the new artists coming out right now. We often overlook singer-songwriters and what they are all about. Assuming it will be rather bland and stale; we move past and go elsewhere. That is wrong because, as IAKO shows, there is a lot to be taken away and adored. So much emotion, richness and life come through in the music. You get depth and nuances we would not see in other forms of music. Let us leave it there – I hope I have covered enough ground – and look at the fantastic single, Paint.
Paint is a song that has been out a little bit and collected some passionate reviews and words. The song comes up lightly and there is a tender and sunlit mood that comes in. Projecting images of passion and touching realisations; the opening moments are gentle and get under the skin. There are touches of Bon Iver when you hear the vocal comes in. That same way of expressing words and projecting mood – you get that coming through with IAKO. The lovers, it seems, found room on a flame. There has been some confrontation and heat coming into the scene; they have struggled to find common understanding and it seems the sweetheart need some space. Our hero looks around and wonders what has happened. The words are teased out and you get such passion and tenderness emerging. I mention Bon Iver, not as an easy name and an insult, but as a genuine compliment. IAKO does not copy the U.S. songwriter but, instead, incorporates some of his vocal sound and songwriter into his world. I am a fan of those artists who can take time and let a song breathe. Although there is tension and something fractured coming along; there is immense beauty and sense of understanding. There are few angers and recriminations coming out in the lyrics. The songwriter keeps his language tight and interesting throughout. There are relatable strands and expressions that are new and stunning. IAKO has a way with words and ensures the maximum amount of wonder and brilliance is uncovered. You can hear how much heartache has come in and how things have worked out. There are no colours anymore, it seems, and one can feel the sadness come through. IAKO has a beautiful voice and create something sumptuous and graceful in Paint. You are involved every stage of the world and feel sympathy for the man. The vocals flow and soothe; the composition remains light but manages to elicit serenity, hardship and moonlight in equal measures. We do not know who the other party is but assume there is no way back and things have reached the end.
As Paint continues and goes through stages; you wonder whether things can be salvaged and there is time for things to heal. The composition rises and then falls. The heroine is painting scenes as she wishes but the heart of our man belongs to her. Things go forward and percussion and piano gallop. Grey butterflies are in the sky and there is that need for the heroine to close her eyes and have faith. The rain beats down and there is that sense that there are two people on different plains. All the colours they used to see have dried and has been replaced by something empty and faded. It is a heart-aching song that instantly gets into the mind and inspired thoughts. You swim in the song and see everything that is happening. I was stunned by the professionalism and immediacy of the song. It is a luscious, full and emphatic work that has so many different layers building and working alongside one another. The composition is wondrous and dexterous. The lyrics look at faith being given by the hero but the heroine not willing to reciprocate. The emotion and sense of strain that comes towards the end leaves one believing things might not see the light of day. They have had their moment and maybe it is best leaving it as things are. You are hooked by the full and changeable composition that projects so many scenes and emotions. What I was saying earlier, about quiet-loud and mixing polar worlds, seems to come to life right through Paint. The song begins softly and then builds into a rapturous and grand thing! The lyrics are stunning and you wonder whether our man is able to get over what has happened. I am one who believes songwriting is cathartic and you can move on. Whatever inspired Paint and its movements mean a lot and still shows its scars. You can relate to what is being said in the song but realise the words come from a man who has seen a lot and given his all.
Let us look at Queen of Balance and the reception it is getting right now. Many sources are excited by this work and celebrating IAKO. I have not had time to review all of the tracks but I would urge people to get behind them all and dive into this extraordinary collection. It seems odd to think there are some who would not give IAKO much time and feel the music lacks any heart. What you get, and what people are saying, is the emotion and textures that go into the music. It is a hugely impressive work and one that resonates with everyone. You cannot listen to songs on Queen of Balance and be unmoved. I realise how much attention and energy was expended by the young songwriter. He wanted to create a work that touched lives and explained where he came from and what he is all about – that has been achieved and the results are fantastic. I wonder whether there will be touring dates and new movements from IAKO. Keep an eye on his social media pages and keep updated with all of his movements. You can guarantee there will be a lot more to come from him and serious love thrown his way. People are responding to his latest E.P. and the music is making its way around the world. The London-based artist is hungry and excited to get his music out to people. Rather than remain passive and let people do the heavy lifting; he is promoting hard and ready for the next stage. IAKO has a lot more to come and is keen to explore the full spectrum of music. He has come a long way in a short time and created his own little world. I am keen to see where IAKO can go and what he comes up with next. Paint is a great song and one that announced a promising and unique songwriter into the world. Surrender to IAKO and let yourself into his sea of music. It is warm and enticing water and, when you are in, you will be reluctant to get out anytime soon! 2018 has been a busy and good year for him but, looking to 2019, and I predict…
EVEN bigger and brighter things!