Alice Ivy (Annika Schmarsel)’s debut full-length I’m Dreaming showcases her ability to spellbind her audience into her own captivating utopia. She strikes a succinct balance between escaping to your own land of fantasy via slow, gentle synths, or day-dancing to king sized percussive drops. This album showcases her range and vast capacity as she takes you on a polyphonic expedition into an imaginative dreamland. With her smooth neo-jazz electronica, it is evident that she has spent a vast amount of time perfecting her craft.
Schmarsel’s connection with music evolved over time, starting out as a guitarist for funk bands in Melbourne, continuing on to setting up a home studio where she became her own writer, singer, composer and producer. Her debut full-length showcases hefty percussive big-band drops fused with the old-timey charm of the 40s and 50s sampled in amongst her impressive guest list of collaborators. She’s having a party, and we’re all invited.
The album opens with “Touch”, featuring London based singer Georgia Van Etten. One is left dozing off into a dreamlike trance, eliciting images of lying on a secluded warm green hill. If it’s dream pop with funky guitar and chopped-up angelic vocals that you’re currently craving, then the introduction to I’m Dreaming will surely be your rewarding fix. It is from here on out that the scene and tone for this album has been set. As passengers, we have had our seats checked as we go on our ride to the next track on Alice Ivy’s dream coaster.
“Be Friends” (featuring Cazeaux, O.S.L.O. & Tim De Cotta) beams with an upbeat call to arms to ensure everyone has a good time. It clearly alludes to a musical influence in The Avalanches. Despite its sonic origins of the past and present, Ivy has accomplished something that many young producers strive to achieve when growing within this genre – mixing and mashing sounds whilst attempting to carve out their own style.
Samples from decades ago ooze into the opening sequence of “Chasing Stars” featuring Bertie Blackman, with another one of Ivy’s dependable collaborators donating their buttery smooth vocals into another dreamscape track. As Blackman endlessly whispers sweet nothings throughout the song’s slow, dreamy arrangement, we receive more of an understanding of what Ivy’s target audience is with this album. It’s a perfect pairing for those listeners jumping on the train ride home from a monotonous day of work or study, where they are ready to slowly fall into a gradual slumber with Ivy’s carefully thought-out atmospheric chillwave acting as the soft pillow on the voyage home. “Chasing Stars” showcases an emphasis on the notion of escapism within one’s imaginative capabilities, specifically having to rely on one’s personal fantasy to become closer to a missed loved one. “St. Germain” serves as somewhat of an interlude – an unapologetic, FloFilz-esque downtempo percussive instrumental with jazzy horns that perfectly encapsulates Alice Ivy’s range and capabilities.
“Charlie” preaches good times to those who seek them. With infectious vocal melodies looped amongst joyful and lively saxophone grooves, we grasp the concept of how Ivy has managed to showcase jazzy big-band resonances in such appealing 2018 fashion to the average twenty-something. A song to truly lift one’s spirits; “Bella” is a smooth sultry spell that Ivy casts upon you. It sustains a comfortably relaxed BPM, not dissimilar to the works of artists such as GoldLink and J Dilla. However, Ivy ensures that her work is her own and by this point in the album she has well and truly secured her prevailing signature sound as her own.
An album highlight is “Almost Here”, featuring RaRa, a track boasting an up-tempo beat with vivacious vocals. As Ivy has previously stated, her goal has always been to try and make music people can have fun to. She certainly lives up to her word with this track. It seems that the most formidable moments on I’m Dreaming occur when collaborators are involved to enhance Ivy’s production. E^ST’s velvety vocal in “Get Me A Drink” (also featuring Charlie Threads) precludes any chances of a deficiency in vocal demands for more beverages and less care towards the trepidations in life. With E^ST’s valuable sass and Charlie’s suave delivery, we learn to appreciate the juxtaposition between the dreamy slow-synth instrumentals in the backdrop and the aggressively confident delivery of vocals within the foreground.
“St. Germain II” features a steady yet inconsistent thud that ricochets amongst the same unhurried saxophone riff of the version offered earlier. Its conveyance is unassuming yet necessary for the succession to the final chapter of the record. Georgia Van Etten returns for the title track, this time with added gusto. The album concludes with “Kaya High” and one reflects on the sonic journey now completed. We say goodbye for now with Flight Facilities-esque symphonic samples and slow-winding vocals that can easily give off sensations of entering a warm bath.
It’s entirely obvious what Alice Ivy’s mission statement was with her first introduction to the world as an album-producing artist. It was to showcase diversity between the art of daydreaming and carelessly grooving your woes away. It is impossible to define this album within the boundaries of a genre but if it were to be summarised it would be somewhere along the lines of dream-wave soul. Alice Ivy has achieved her dream epithet with a generally positive subject matter throughout the record’s themes. I’m Dreaming is an impressive effort from an all-in-one breakout producer who should be monitored closely.