Album Review: iji's Soft Approach
(Lost Sound Tapes)
1/2 (out of 5)
To get you started out on the right foot with the band iji, it's pronounced "ee-hee," and yes, it's stylized in lowercase. A name like iji is not trying to hit you over the head, not trying to grab your attention, not strutting into a spotlight of any kind, and the same could be said of the music itself—open and laid-back, music made for no reason other than that music is the best. Seattle's Zach Burba is iji, though the list of sometimes-members and assisting musicians is close to 30. At least eight of iji's albums are readily available on the internet (though I know there are plenty more out there—Burba is DIY prolific), and they range from soft, bare-bones indie to dancey synth-pop and rock. The latest album, Soft Approach, like the name hints, is a gentle collection of songs, and probably the most dub-dipped and tropical iji yet. Imagine drifting down a bubbling river of Fanta on an inflatable giraffe with your best friends—everyone is mellow, a dog wearing shades waves from the shore.
A dozen or so folks played with Burba on Soft Approach, and the effect is something like a groovy friend jam with instruments like trombone, violin, and flute swirled with sounds like operatic moans and enthusiastic woo!s. The lyrics occasionally take on a Daniel Johnston–esque stream-of-consciousness style; other times, it feels like he's reading over a few hazy journal entries—hanging out with friends, pondering various physical and emotional landscapes. Burba's voice is something that might take a minute to acclimate to—it's airy and a little cartoonish, and words and notes are casually tossed into the air with unpredictable syncopation. But it's just right for the overall vibe he's got going on: uninhibited and original. My track picks right now are the gleeful Americana-rock of "Feeling This" and "Summer Projection"—a catchy, sunny song with fragile verses and buzzing choruses offset with a tinkling piano and group vocals, perfect for a low-key midnight porch-hang or dancing in your yard.