In recent years Ioanna Gika has been quite active as a guest performer in both the indie scene and bigger productions. She recently provided vocals for indie rock act the Drums and she was also featured in Hollywood score projects. If you dig a bit more into her past you will also find the very interesting IO Echo band, which saw Gika and fellow bandmate Leopold Ross produce a mix of goth and pop rock with grunge sensibilities.
Gika’s contributions have always been excellent, and it is very intriguing to see her now return with her debut solo record in Thalassa. Here Gika draws influences from her past musical endeavors, but also from her Greek heritage, with the record titled after the Greek word for “sea” and the primordial entity that represents it. The discography of the singer crosses over various genres, and Gika has been always able to fit very well within any pre-existing structures, be it indie music, neo-classical pieces or pop rock anthems.
Thalassa breaks ranks from what has been the norm for Gika and introduces a new scope for the singer. The main attribute of the record is its delicate and subtle manifestation, highlighted both through the instrumentation and arrangement. The subtle notes of the opening track introduce this modus operandi, with Gika adding further flourishes to enrich the progression while keeping intact its low-key profile. Even at times when a more upbeat presence is brought forth Gika keeps a tight control over its progression, as is the case with “New Geometry”, not allowing the track to build to a full outbreak.
Still as Thalassa unfolds the vision of the producer becomes clearer. In essence this a tasteful, art pop record with an ethereal touch. Electronic influences join in, adding a big low end in the opening track. Noisy percussive rhythms in “Out of Focus” and “Messenger” inject a nice twist to the minimal motifs, and create a sweet variation from the norm. This modern and digital take also leaks into the other end of this record, its elusive orchestral leanings. The title track presents this tendency through both its form and the soothing touch of the melodies. There are even moments where Gika travels towards a neo-classical edge, resulting in emotive and powerful manifestations, as in “No Matter What”.
The electronic element, the orchestral and narrative progression of this work is what makes Thalassa a work of intelligent pop music. It also helps greatly that at the center of it all stands Gika with her fantastic vocal delivery. Moments like “Swan”, which is easily one of the highlights of this work, find Gika taking on a towering presence to unleash a fantastic hook on the chorus of the song. But for the most part Gika retains her ethereal tone, which is greatly complimented by the surrounding soundscapes. Constructing a cinematic theme surround Thalassa, she is able to produce an immersive, near mystical experience, concluding it with a dreamy crescendo in “Drifting”.