Following two well-spaced and well-received full length albums of innovative bass music, Ikonika is back after a four-year break with Distractions, an collection that builds on that solid foundations by pushing her sound forward. The London electronic music producer is known for her unique style, a playful mix of dubstep, 8-bit, and whatever else happens to be inspiring her, often with a strong melodic core. Distractions takes this blueprint and develops in it a way that is as adventurous as it is brimming with surprising mainstream appeal.
The 13 songs on the record are diverse, with a musical and emotional arc worthy of a sci-fi anime saga, but the record also feels personal and welcoming. A lot of that warmth is generated by sensuous synth lines and familiar feeling R&B references as well as the very-human voices of guests like Jessy Lanza. It’s the kind of release that can grab the attention of someone who thinks they don’t like electronic music while still keeping Ikonika’s rabidly devoted fans in the underground happy.
It demonstrates that a progressive, “futuristic” sound doesn’t have to feel cold or alienating. Grime can be soothing, and sub-bass can be as restorative as a cup of herbal tea. “Lear,” in particular, has a comforting, timeless feel to it while also being both strikingly pop friendly and a bit epic. Another standout “Not Actual Game Play,” weaves the sonic hallmarks of grime and VGM with slinky R&B synths, essentially evolving her signature into a new, sleeker form.
Given its title and the outro, which samples the voice of a man accusing a woman of not really needing glasses, “Not Actual Gameplay” could be taken as an artful comment on the insinuations about “fake geek girls” that women in electronic music, and any other male-dominated nerd arena (such as gaming), have to deal with. Perhaps the very “feminine” personality of the song, its smoothness and sense of fun, is part of the commentary – a statement that she can make something that sounds so soft while still going harder than most.
If she is, indeed, twirling on whatever haters she might have this way, it’s a victory dance well earned. Already one of the most respected producers of bass music in the UK, after making an album of this caliber, there isn’t a thing she could have to prove to anyone.