Metal Mother 

Ionika

When Taara Tati — the songwriter behind Metal Mother — opens Ionika with the trembling, electro-pop track "mind_off" and repeats the confident chorus It's just the beginning, you actually believe her. The Oakland artist pushes herself on her sophomore album, getting darker and more experimental.

Much like her own howling voice, Tati's new electronic explorations are eerily warm and comforting, even when they're awash in harsh industrial beats and icy synths. The rich textures present on many of the eleven tracks carefully balance digital static and noise with melodic piano and live percussion. Take the sprawling, seven-and-a-half minute "Little Ghost" — arguably Tati's most ambitious and well-executed track to date — in which three distinct movements combine to form something dark, dancey, and incredibly vulnerable: Humming, otherworldly synths build into a prominent melody with thick beats, then suddenly give way to stuttering tribal percussion, dramatic piano, and confessional vocals. A catchy pop piano melody softens the heaviness of mechanical beats and Tati's vocal delays and effects on "Doomdome." But "Prism" and "Tactillium" are a little too delicate, boasting an Enya-ish, New Agey, easy-listening vibe. The male/female duet "Windexx'd" is the album's strangest, most distorted track, but a Celtic guitar solo keeps it firmly in line with Tati's aesthetic.

Metal Mother has largely abandoned the doom-folk sound that marked its debut, and it mostly pays off. The only exceptions are a few spaced-out and minimal tracks, like "Enetar," which feels a bit like filler. (Post Primal)

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