By Lynn, Rock At Night The Netherlands
‘Under the surface’ is a series about artists accidentally found on music platforms. Some of them are setting their first steps on their way to a breakthrough, some of them share their music just for a niche market. Lynn reviews the music and interviews the artists to discover the ‘story behind’
‘Mean Time’ is the title of in September 2022 released album by Ioana Iorgu. The first two tracks, refer indeed to a mean time. ‘Worried’ is a sphere of suppressed emotions, an ambient soundscape, a drone with a noisy reverb, spoken word with shreds of lyrics, about… bruised lips, overfilling bathtub, metallic smell – death? or just a state of mind? In the next song ‘Worries’ this seems to be continued, but now with a loud growling guitar and a forcing riff. The disturbing atmosphere and spoken word style remind me slightly of Lydia Lunch.
Ioana Iorgu is an independent musician who produces and records her own music. She’s grown up in Malaysia, now she’s based in The Netherlands. She is a self-taught drummer and guitarist and started to play in bands when she was 14, and in 2019 she released her first album with ambient instrumentals. I had the chance to talk with her about the new album.
On ‘Mean Time’ her music has grown out to a heavy guitar-based sound, colored with dissonant and strange chords and still with ambient elements in it. She’s made a step further in experimenting with guitarsounds, scapes and structures. Ioana Iorgu: “it’s a bit of multiple genres in one i.e. shoegaze, postpunk, doomgaze, rock, but I think postpunk it’s most covering to say.”
Ioana used synths too, but it’s not a move to electronic music.
“There are 2 songs on the album (baby blue memories & automatic grief) which have more synth-electronic elements and electronic drums, with drone like guitars but all apart from those songs, only guitars were used for the landscape/ambient sounds. As in ‘Honey’, the airy ongoing sound at the back is played on guitar, not on synthesizer.”
“In the studio I took the opportunity to explore more sounds, to integrate the ambient aspect again at a more professional quality.
It’s also in the essence of Mean Time, to create a melancholic/nostalgic feeling
In a way, I aimed to create sounds that compensate what the lyrics cannot express, like the ending guitar shreddings of ‘Knots’. Without those, the song wouldn’t have been complete I felt.”Ioana uses a lot of reverbs “I particularly like reverb, it has a lot to it I think and can give different shapes to songs. I thought of it as an ambience and an element of coldness to indeed, create some distance. It fits to the music, in my opinion.
Live performs Ioana her music with a drummer, using only her guitar. “But since ‘Mean Time’ I am planning on adding a synth for the live performances too, so a little inclined to make more use of electronic sounds.”
Pieces of a puzzle
The songs on Mean Time are in a certain way pretty abstract: it’s not a clear songstructure with couplets, choruses and a bridge, and the lyrics are layered. Every time you listen you could hear another meaning. I’m curious about her way of songwriting.
Ioana Iorgu: “Essentially the sounds and lyrics are like two pieces of a puzzle for me. Sometimes the instrumentals can strike more feelings as music plainly is even wider open to interpretation – for me at least.
I keep a notebook of poems I write, or even lines that pop up in my head and think would suit for in a future song, then I grab my guitar and have a jam see what fits good with the ambience of the poem where the poem eventually gets adjusted to fit on the melodic line.”
Ioana: “The anthologies of my favourite poets and writers like Carol Ann Duffy, Philip Larkin, Sylvia Plath and Margret Atwood embrace the theme of time passing by, grief and nostalgia. So that first was an eye opener as I found parts of myself in their poems. I started writing the album midway through the pandemic times, so then time really felt quite mean. It felt like it was either at super fast forward speed or incredibly slow, but it was always like: Oh where did the time go so fast?
The lyrics revolve around my feelings, imagination, interpretation and view of things, and I sometimes like to twist things a bit with some satire to dampen the effects a little.”
In my opinion ‘Mean Time’ is a great album, because the listener has to take some effort to give meaning to all the pieces of the musical and lyrical puzzle Ioana Iorgu made.