At the end of 2009, a bizarre video was uploaded to YouTube and sent out to music publications. Pastoral forest imagery soundtracked by distorted synth gave way to something more sinister. As the minute-long video progresses, it becomes clear that the limbs of the trees are human limbs, slathered in mud, waving around incongruously with the breeze. The music becomes darker and a female form emerges in the fetal position from a pool of black water, wrapped in umbilical roots. The video ends as a hand makes a come-hither motion while protruding from a tree.

In the wake of the original video, uploaded by a user called “iamamiwhoami,” came a flurry of speculation on its origin. Popular guesses at the time were that this heralded a new project from Lady Gaga, Björk or, for some reason, Christina Aguilera. None of these turned out to be true, however. The project uploaded more enigmatic videos until it was revealed to be the brainchild of Swedish musician and artist Jonna Lee and producer Claes Björklund. This took some time, the internet moved slower back then, and until Lee’s involvement was revealed midway through 2010 there were plenty of people obsessing over the videos and their anonymous creators. The videos they uploaded during the “Prelude” phase and the ones whose music ended up on the 2013 album Bounty are worth tracking down, holding up long after their initial mystery has been solved.

Nearly 10 years after this micro-viral phenomenon, Lee is still making music—now as ionnalee. Her second album under this moniker, REMEMBER THE FUTURE, is a much more straightforward affair than the work of her iamamiwhoami days. The distorted, skittery synths have given way to pop-ascendency. Her enigmatic lyrics have morphed into more straightforward confessionalism with a twist of the dystopian. Lee’s voice is still at the forefront, though, and for good reason. She really is an excellent singer and the occasionally soaring choruses of this album attest to that.

The songs, averaging around five minutes a piece, do not expend their length on movement or modulation. They opt for traditional verse-chorus tradeoffs, or sink into a mode and stay there. This is not an inherently bad quality, but REMEMBER THE FUTURE is filled with songs that sound more or less the same and follow a more or less similar electro-pop formula. Which is a shame, because Lee’s voice is evocative—ghostly, even—and ill-served by rote pop composition.

“MYSTERIES OF LOVE,” a late cut on the album, is a perfect example of this. The first half of the song puts Lee’s voice at the forefront. She floats over a background awash in synth until the expected happens and a beat intrudes to guide the song for the closing half: a repetition of the first. “SOME BODY” is the most successful pop song on the album, being one of the only tracks a person could dance to. “ISLANDER” and “RACE AGAINST” turn away from pop formulation but background Lee’s voice to the point that it gets lost in the synthesizer and beats that move in and out of the straightforward compositions. These are moods more than songs, and it is a shame that Lee does not cross-pollinate these modes more throughout the record.

The phrase that serves as the album’s title can be a read as a plea to be mindful of the world that we will leave in our wake—a command, even. But it could also be read as a question. The robot on the album’s cover—made by Lee—is a symbol of how we used to imagine the future: sleek, clean and metallic. Whether this vision was a good one is beside the point, some people thought it was and they wrote books and made films and music in order to imagine a better, techno-utopian future. What Lee seems to be pointing out is that we have lost our collective capacity to imagine a better future. The planet is dying. We are killing it.

Lee mines this apocalyptic mindset on “MATTERS,” singing: “The end is nigh/ Rising is a changing time.” When Zola Jesus joins her for the chorus, they sing, “Endless winter leaves us after all/ Forever.” Unlike in her earlier video work as iamamiwhoami, Lee is unable to fashion anything other than dystopian clichés from our present moment. The strange quality that made these videos so hypnotizing—their more-than-human organicism, their resistance to traditional song structure and their anonymity—is absent from her art 10 years later. The optimism she opines on the title track could be genuinely effective if Lee found a way back to what made her previous work so extraordinary and used that quality to channel her vision for the future.

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