Ivy Walker's self-titled debut album is moved by a sense of nostalgia that never really recalls a specific time and place.
In the 2004 horror flick The Village, we are introduced to a plot as telling as it is revelatory about the world. The M. Night Shyamalan-directed movie depicts the story of a small, archaic community bearing its belief in ultimate evil, represented by monsters, forests, those you shall not mention. In the center of it all lies Ivy Walker, the girl who defies such common sense only to make things come back to the way they once were. “You will know the truth", the wise man once said.
Fittingly, Ivy Walker also happens to be the trio made up by Brazilian artists Mario Maria and Babality (the latter being, namely, Lucas Stamford and Romulo Moraes). Ivy Walker, their self-titled album, had its name chosen wisely: just as The Village operates as a metaphor for the manner in which we deal with mysticism and knowledge, Ivy Walker, the album, is a grand investigation into the group’s memory and nostalgia. Their way of achieving such goal? Carefully constructed bedroom music.
Actually, a term such as that -- the sometimes mocked “bedroom music” label -- could succinctly sum up Ivy Walker’s general sound in their debut album: it is a term so vague and broad it could easily have chillwave and seapunk under its umbrella of sounds. Yet, that would be an inaccurate assessment. The same works for with vaporwave, a microgenre that has been ultimately distorted; now operating as an internet brand. Ivy Walker are something else.
If there is anything good that the internet brought to the music industry as a whole -- besides ruining it, that is -- is the fact that it halted the dichotomies of future and past in regards to creative freedom. The few people who understood that in the early stages of the internet culture are the ones who are now at the borderlands of art making. Which is to say that the ultimate error of the average music producer by the end of the last decade could commit is one that has been spread over our culture: music made in consideration for a specific time in history, music only enjoyable when considered hand-in-hand with the right (mostly disturbing) context. Music, in sum, that cannot exist in the real world.
The trio avoid making those mistakes by not recalling a specific time or location (or a variety of those). Instead, the album seems like an exercise in pop sensibility, a collage, even a portfolio, of things randomly, poignantly, found in the artists’ lives that make up a cohesive whole. A collection of internet findings, wisely selected samples and their penchant for cultural references.
Ivy Walker starts with the dreamlike “Down Dog”, initially a rapturous interlude that quickly unfolds into an angelic drone track. “Água” follows such pattern -- it instinctively recalls sometimes Tim Hecker during his “The Piano Drop” phase.
Considering Ivy Walker’s music sounds like a collage containing one’s tastes and idiosyncrasies condensed into a cohesive whole, it is fitting to witness the presence of the cover of Michael Jackson’s “Love Never Felt So Good”. Ivy Walker’s take on it strips the original song bare. It replaces Michael’s warm, welcoming voice with an angelical drone hovering above the lyrics, almost swallowing it whole. It renders it as a completely different song with a completely different meaning. For a while, they own the song.
Yet Ivy Walker’s best moment as a pop experiment comes with “Liturgia”. Stylistically, it is a simpleton song. A sax-driven track reminiscent of the eighties’ easily recognizable penchant for easy listening -- elevator music, to put it mildly -- that, when rendered through the trio’s lens, becomes something else entirely. Just as the case for Ariel Pink’s time machine, Ivy Walker appropriates the past not as an activity solely in itself, nor to make a point, but for pure joy. In “Anúncio”, the album’s last track, the sax returns only to make its last appearance.
As a whole, Ivy Walker’s overriding message is one that is hard to come by nowadays. Not like the majority of music that wants desperately to suit its time and place of birth, this is music that is not exactly nostalgic in the sense employed by most people right now. It's an honest and vivid collage of feelings and pictures and memories of those who helped create it. More importantly, it does not need to exist solely on the internet to make sense. It does not require context, which says a lot these days.