- A tangle of folk, DIY electronics, classical and pop that confuses and inspires in equal measure.
- On stage and in her videos, Alexandra Drewchin contorts her body into grotesque, yoga-like poses. "I find the ouroboric-like shape of a deep back bend to be uniquely altering," she has said, because the movement helps her tap into deeper emotions. That flexibility is key to her music, where folk, DIY electronics, classical music and pop intersect. On IRISIRI, Drewchin's songs coil and curve in unexpected ways. The album has a way of befuddling you and getting deep under your skin at the same time.
Whether she's crooning, croaking or rapping, Drewchin's voice is her best tool. IRISIRI sees her trade the folky leanings of her past two albums for a more baroque backing—sampled strings as well as harp played by Marilu Donovan—that she navigates in a decidedly un-baroque way. Her vocal melodies slip and slide around these tracks, rarely sitting still and often occupying odd corners. She wheels off strange, rambling phrases on the wonky pop tune "Not Worried," while her pseudo-rapped vocals drift in and out of time with the instrumental on "Inclined." She sings in high, arcing wails over the relatively stable hip-hop beat of "Inkling." When Moor Mother shows up for a rap verse on "MMXXX," her bars are a life raft in a choppy sea.
Drewchin's impressionistic lyrics often focus on the body. On "Inhale Baby," a collaboration with Odwalla1221, she says, "Direct my breathing where I want it," as if commanding herself. Other voices chant, "There's so much stuff coming out of my skirt" in an unnerving deadpan. "I'm about to take my gloves off / unpack the layers of separation," she sings on "Inclined," hinting at a kind of nakedness. On "Inkling," it sounds like she's trying to push her voice to the very edge of her upper register. (She has a three-octave range.) As she sings about her own body, her lyrics and vocalizations contort in a similar way.
The range of ideas on IRISIRI, and the way Drewchin lurches from one to the next, gives the LP an improvised air. It thrives on being flexible, but it also occasionally hits a wall. Some tracks, like "MTTM," which is essentially a collage underpinned by a kickdrum, can feel distracting and hard to pin down. Just as you can only bend your body so much, you can only push at the edges of songs before everything falls apart. Then again, that also makes for some of IRISIRI's most beguiling moments—listen to the way she warps the phrase "nobody's looking" on "Slyly Child."
Drewchin loves contrasts, and some of IRISIRI's most beautiful songs have a feeling of nagging uncertainty or danger, as if she couldn't have one without the other. The operatic church music on "Trespasses" is overlaid with a synth lead from what could be an experimental club track. The harp on "Curtains" is disturbed by a techno beat that fades slowly into the background without ever going out of earshot completely.
IRISIRI is an uncomfortable album, especially compared to the ambient folk of her previous LPs. But the risks taken here make it her most striking full-length. In the album's endless subversions and contradictions, Drewchin occasionally hits on something profound, like the sepulchral atmosphere on "Curtains," or the way her vocals run circles around the harp strums on "Peripheral." Her music can feel frustratingly fragmented one second and suddenly coalesce into something brilliant the next. IRISIRI is baffling and inspired in equal measure.
03. Not Worried
06. Inhale Baby feat. Odwalla1221
08. Slyly Child
11. MMXXX feat. Moor Mother
13. In Vitro