iji (pronounced “eehee”) seems like it is a constantly changing form shifting into different beings throughout its time as a band. The mastermind behind the melodic pop eccentricities is none other than multi-instrumentalist/songwriter Zach Burba of Seattle, Washington. iji has grown from the underground DIY scene with a 10-year stint recording various eclectic, fuzzy records and tapes to now releasing full-length Bubble via New Paltz label Team Love Records.
Bubble has an interesting concept and that comes across full force. The idea behind the album came from the band’s collective journals in which dreams were recorded while on tour, reflecting the messy and abstract thoughts of the mind. Bubble took just 5 days to record and is more of a typical “band” effort than any previous work iji has done. The result is a bizarre lilting collection of the distracted and coherent brain.
Bubble is a little daunting at first. You have to be in the right mindset to absorb the 13 tracks in their entirety. It’s like being really hungry and putting way too much food than you can ingest on your plate. It took a few sporadic listens before I was able to wholly immerse myself into the work, but in total it’s truly a peculiar piece that keeps your attention and is completely weird, wild and wonderful.
‘What’s Real’ features happy horns with an easy listening feel, but it tricks you in the end because it’s not entirely all that easy to listen to. The track is simultaneously chaotic and relaxed with the lyric “What’s real?” echoing throughout the tune. It makes sense once you know that the album is based off dreams because it’s hard to clarify what is real and what isn’t when you’re unconscious. This song sounds straight out of a dream, and it totally is.
‘Free Screening’ is a little piece on technology that has a really bumping synth vibe. The track is a cool nod to how technology is basically taking over and how it’s simple to get wrapped up in screens and as the words go, “and slip away.” ‘Wild Music’ is a gnarly track that turns into a whimsical breakdown with wild instrumentation and a jammed out chorus. ‘Summer of 2069’ is one of my favorite tracks off Bubble. This hippie tune is fit for any festivalgoer. With its stream of consciousness lyrical content and flower-child undertones, it’s easy to picture iji in a Woodstock-esque situation, participating in drum circles all night until the last person decides to call it quits and go back to their tent.
iji’s Bubble is erratic but sucks you in making the listener work to try and understand someone else’s dreams. It’s a really interesting collection of songs that stand out and may take time to digest, but it’s worth it. Bubble is out via Team Love on 7/29.