iji - ST

LP edition of 500.

Release Date – March 6th, 2020 – Pre-order Available – 

iji (pronounced “ee-hee”) is songwriter Zach Burba’s tenured, transcendental DIY party band. Bred in Phoenix and fully flowered in Seattle, iji has been touring the American underground for 14 years, releasing a countless number of beloved LPs and tapes and pressing pause only for Zach to join the roving picnics of friends like Dear Nora, Mega Bog, and Clyde Peterson, whose Torrey Pines film featured a live touring soundtrack by Zach and others.

iji, their self-titled 11th release, is a buoyant squiggling through a gummi jungle that thrums with living things. Sounds plink, waft, and effervesce in friendly color smooshes, energetic yet gentle in expressions of patient-hearted pop. Though on first listen it is easy to drift away on this familiar iji tide, this record is really a cartoon Saturn return, with a lost, saucer-eyed narrator that wigs and wonders at himself and his surroundings in blooming question marks. The real life starts by getting reacquainted with yourself as the cosmic blunderer, the uncomfy metaphysical tourist tripping through dimensions where you’ve lost track of your place, your rituals, your friends.

When it came time to record, iji live band alums Jake Jones (drums), Will Murdoch (bass), Evan Easthope (guitar), Tyler Martin (synths), Jade Tcimpidis (vocals) lined up to help along side a large number of friends, guests and new collaborators including Zach’s Dad who plays harmonica on the opening track. Zach also recruited friends James Krivchenia (Big Thief) and Erin Birgy (Mega Bog) to engineer and co-produce respectively, with eternal heroes like Arthur Russell, Laura Nyro, Peter Ivers, and Squeeze swimming in the clouds above. Although iji consistently slips from genre assignment, it has been an earnest pop experiment since its inception. The dancing procession of iji albums have reliably been about goofing, dreaming, love, and adventures through both inner- and outer-space, with lyrics and arrangements that sparkle with good-natured self-awareness. But the tone that began with 2016’s Bubble has ripened on this record, with confessions of confusion and personal limitation bounding out more insistently than ever— albeit with the same heaps of psychedelic tenderness.

The theme of movement— necessary, joyful, and dizzying—zigs through the record, most notably with the minty-blue “Faster” and duet “In Motion,” featuring vocals from fellow road dog Greta Kline (Franky Cosmos). Present, too, are the loss and loneliness that come with endless flux, whether it’s in feeling alone-together in the social anxiety warble “Party’s Turn”, missing old kinship of absent pals (“Where Are You?”), accepting bewilderment at your own reflection (“I Don’t Ever Wanna Go Back,” “Lizard”, “Much Oblige”), or even in singing a requiem for a favorite tape whose warped reels can’t light the brain like they used to (“The Ultimate in Relaxation”). Other songs are stories told in harmony with these ideas; an artist’s performative self wriggles out of being truly known in “Something to Say”, we stop to gawk at the dude within (“Chewing”), and thumbs twirl in the sunny one-room cottage of “Salmon Ladder”. The album’s synaesthetic palette, pocked and splashed with noises, is a direct nod to iji’s relationship with visual art; one of Zach’s new abstract paintings appears on the cover and is, quite literally, a still-life of the music. For the album to be self-titled so late in the catalog is like a renewal of vows, to rededicate iji as a culmination of all these years and miles and people, a new era in what was always “friends making friendly music”.