Ioanna Gika wrote and produced her first solo record, Thalassa, during a period of turbulent change. In the wake of the deaths of her father and stepfather, and the dissolution of a long-term relationship, the former member of Io Echo traveled to her family’s home country of Greece, where she witnessed its now-decade-long spiral into economic ruin and corruption firsthand. She emerged with an art-pop odyssey of gothic elegance and profound searching: for clarity, for solidity, for a way forward, like a balm amid crisis.
On Thalassa’s highlight, “Roseate,” Gika pivots between featherlight, almost medieval balladeering and concrete resolve. Beats rise and crash like the ocean; Gika’s rhythms, skittering and sprinting, reflect the mercurial nature of life itself. Against this churn, Gika eloquently sings of upheaval, of a crumbling city: “Went inland but saw statues fall / Reshaping the golden dawn,” she intones, an indictment of Greece’s neo-fascist Golden Dawn party. Gika’s political invocations are subtly-stated but deeply felt, like on the rattling “Messenger,” where she addresses Greece’s period of austerity and debt in personal terms. “No more pension for mother or my stepdad,” she sings soberly.
At times, Thalassa contains hints of Björk, or the music that Nandi Rose Plunkett currently makes as Half Waif. Gika has also opened for heavier artists, such as Deafheaven and Nine Inch Nails, with whom she shares a blackened grandeur and an intensity of spirit. But her production, morose as it is, breathes in a way that feels generous and rare. Thalassa means sea in Greek. Gika’s music, well acquainted with vast unknowns, shows that one cannot find an anchor without braving the waves.