May Roosevelt: Junea
Inner Ear

If May Roosevelt's fourth album sounds like the sleekest and most polished release to date from the Greek thereminist and composer, there's a good explanation for it: with Junea described as a digital alter-ego of Roosevelt's, the character of the recording's material might be said to be more a reflection of the synthetic creature gazing out intently from the album cover than Roosevelt herself. Junea's universe is one where synthesizers, electronics, and pixels dominate, and thus a realm where everything is reducible to ones and zeros.

Four years on from her last album, 2013's Music to the Poetry of Dinos Christianopoulos, the Thessaloniki-born producer has crafted a collection that, despite its concise half-hour duration, still manages to present an encompassing portrait influenced by multiple traditions, including electronica, techno, prog, industrial, and Greek traditional music.

The ethereal opener “Air” establishes the album's tone immediately with a bright blend of crystalline vocal textures, high-velocity kick drums, and fluorescent synth figures, the sum-total a charging techno-driven electro-pop manifesto for the synthetic era; midway through, a Moog melody arises, nudging Junea briefly in an Emerson, Lake, & Palmer direction, until the song exits on a cresting wave. Without downplaying the synthetic chilliness of the album concept, “Pa” exudes a strong Roosevelt stamp in merging haunting theremin patterns with a midtempo funk groove. Funky too are “Let's,” which adorns its earthy pulse with an epic blaze of synths, vocals, and theremins, and “Ta,” where trap drum patterns are paired with chiming synthesizer flourishes.

Ultimately, as perfectly smooth and shiny as its music's surfaces are, Junea is clearly identifiable as a Roosevelt production, never more so than when those hypnotic theremin timbres surface during the eight songs; not surprisingly, it's the ones where her theremin playing is prominently featured that are also the album's most memorable. The vocal-like cry the instrument adds to “Flowers,” for instance, is the major reason the song makes the impression it does, and there's no question “In Your Eyes” grows considerably more arresting once the theremin solo emerges halfway through.

Roosevelt desires to be recognized as a songwriter, arranger, and producer rather than be known as a thereminist only, and the mini-album makes a strong case for her in that regard. Junea likewise shows her to be a gifted instrumentalist, with all of the recording's sounds credited to her except for additional vocals by Agnes Zachari on “Flowers”; she also, however, needs to be careful to not allow the most distinctive part of her sonic identity be overshadowed by other musical elements. She's more than a thereminist, true, but it's nevertheless that which more than anything else gives her music its distinctive personality.

January 2018