Thalassa is the debut album from Ioanna Gika, a Greek American musician signed to Sargent House. Formerly of Io Echo, Gika has spoken about how “Thalassa is about going through change that is unwanted yet unstoppable.” Gika conveys that musically by combining classical tones with cool, dark, and modern electronic moods. Thalassa means “spirit of the sea” in Greek, and like the ocean, there is a lusciousness to this breathtaking album.
“Roseatte” opens with a luscious harp shimmering like the wine dark sea. With baroque vocals, Ioanna Gika sings, “Goodbye, in waves the message rang through the sea.” The song takes on a heavy and dramatic tone with gothic beats and industrial electronic elements. With theatrical vocals, Gika sings, “these city walls our fathers built they have crumbled now but I can’t let go.” Lyrically and musically, “Roseatte” affectingly conveys the struggle of coping with change while honoring roots to the past. “Roseatte” is a deeply passionate and emotionally empowering song, with maximalist singing and melodies that crash like waves before retreating back to the ocean.
“Out of Focus” is an airy song, with haunting synths blended ethereally with chilling vocals. It’s like being inside a dream with its own logic. The pulsing beats create a mosaic of ghostly and haunting rhythms. Gika sings about “holding on to history,” repeating the lyrics, “there was nothing to do, nothing to do.”
“Thalassa” feels otherworldly. Like a creation myth that reinvents itself for modernity, “Thalassa” is grounded in classical sensibilities yet colored by futuristic rattles, drone, and noise. Echoing harp and glistening synths convey a sense of wonder and radiance through delicate melodies. Once “Thalassa” ends, “Messenger” begins with a drum and bass vibe that is poppy and fun. “Messenger” is a fast song with plucky, uppity, and energetic strings. There are also some incredibly lovely vocal cries and chants, with a rapid piano and fast strings towards the exhilarating end.
“Swan,” is a slow and icy lament, with frosty keys and atmospheric instrumentation. To the sound of wistful synths and faraway ambience, Gika sings mournfully, “I can touch you, but I can’t hold on, let me hear the swan sing.” Gika has stated that she wrote “Swan” towards the end of a relationship. “I could sense change,” she said, “but was met with silence.” Gika added, “Hearing the truth is harsh, but silence, when you’re looking for answers, is a suffocating purgatory.” As far as translating artistic intent into music, Gika successfully transforms silence and suffocation into beautiful, deep, and meaningful sound. If looking for answers through silence is a Purgatory, than Ioanna Gika has transformed hers into something beautiful and understandable.
The deep keys and mellow atmosphere on “Weathervane” serenade the void. Elegiac synths intertwined with choir like vocals give this song a spacey and cosmic vibe. On “Weathervane,” Gika asks, “did I love you too much or not enough?” The instrumentation towards the end creates an atmosphere that is chillingly beautiful. “New Geometry” is a spirited song with inspired strings, stimulating beats, and exceptional back up singing. Gika sings, “I found the answer in your hesitation.” The lively drumming, fuzzy bass, and gentle guitar towards the end offer surprising variation that heighten the musical complexity and tension explored on Thalassa.
Gika’s vocals have a lulling effect in the beginning of “No Matter What.” When she sings softly, “don’t fall asleep in silence,” her cool and calming vocals fuse with stunning and elegant strings. The synths make this song uplifting and triumphant. “Ammonite” is very maximalist and post-punk towards the beginning. The song opens with symphonic strings and intense, gothic singing. Painted with dramatic and dark electronic beats, this synth pop song ends surprisingly, with melodic piano, and watery, doubled singing.
“Drifting” is dazzling with the lavish piano, rich synths, and luxuriant keys. Like a little poem that gives off warmth and light through verse, the lyrics in “Drifting” are touching through powerful and heartfelt imagery. “Don’t go drifting too far from the shore,” Gika implores, “if I lose you will I lose myself?” For an album focused on impermanence, here comes a song that resists change. There is a profound and impassioned yearning that is captivating and beautiful, one that encapsulates the feeling of Thalassa with levity and grace.
Thalassa is a groundbreaking and innovative achievement worth listening to on repeat. Ioanna Gika has said that Thalassa “is a document of the dread, the adrenaline, and the surrender in the moments when you realize the only way to survive is to brace yourself and go through.” That feels more than earned on Thalassa, an inventive and revolutionary record. With Thalassa, Ioanna Gika triumphs over loss with a towering and staggering debut that resonates long after this stunning album finishes playing.