One to Watch: Iona Fortune

As the physical doors to the underground hubs of electronic music remain closed and the monotony of quarantine continues for yet another week, it’s unsurprising that the home-working week has pushed audiences to re-tune their tastes towards relaxation. Dance is swapped out for artistry and sweat-inducing melodies for meditation. As a proficient Umdze (a leader of mediation and chants), Scottish born Iona Fortune’s stunning minimal tracks can help move listeners to a form of indispensable enlightenment in this time of chaos.

Translating the I Ching’s 800 pages of mystic divination and wisdom into two euphoric, trancelike volumes of work – Tao and I (2017) and Tao and I Volume 2 (2019) – Fortune has skillfully morphed these liminal echoes of future pathways through an array of traditional Chinese instruments. Roughly translated to The Book of Changes, the I Ching educates the reader in the ancient method of divination through its 64 hexagrams. Akin to tarot cards, this text states that an individual’s future can be determined by picking hexagrams. However, unlike tarot this fate is decided by the flipping of six coins rather than choosing cards from a pack. An I Ching hexagram is made up of two trigrams, and a trigram consists of three solid (yang) or broken (yin) horizontal lines. Each trigram represents a natural force: heaven, earth, thunder, water, mountain, wind, flame and lake. Different combinations of these eight trigrams make up the 64 hexagrams, with distinct names, meanings and divinatory texts. 

Coded into musical form, Fortune names each track after an alternate hexagram, as if manifesting its future path in audio form. ‘Tai 泰’’s  safe and grandiose divination is exasperated by the rich instrumentation which spreads its wings to fly across the lavish backdrop that Fortune has masterfully created with only two or three instruments at a time. By contrast, the more frantic multiplication and evolution of ‘Da You 大有’ embodies the hexagram’s fortune of prosperity, opulence and masculinity in its lushness of tone and deep drones that continually drag their feet in the background. Pitched as the first track to Mr Scruff’s DJ-Kicks this year, Fortune comfortably opens the album with her signature blissfully minimalist style. Alike to Scruff’s infamous infinite sets, within a couple of seconds your body is completely cocooned in a comparatively timeless peace for a song which falls just short of two minutes. 

Unsurprisingly there’s something mystifying about Fortune’s work, and that’s not just because it implores you to explore the hidden ancient meanings. Each hexagram incarnate brims with momentum even if by composition the tracks are minimal, darting around each other in a linear yet somehow chaotic manner. It’s almost as if they are waiting to converge on a secret resolution which is never materialised. 

Fortune expanded her exploration of this text in her first collaboration with the NYX electronic drone choir last year at The Pickle Factory in London. This transformational performance featured a cluster of dark harmonies imparting a call that “the way to the source is open.” Like a puzzle without a rule book, this is the first piece of spoken text which Fortune has used. No direct explanation is provided, leaving the listener to simply give in to Fortune’s guiding hand as she pushes us to let go of reality in exchange for the slowly unravelling vibrational secrets of her synth-filled interpretational universe.

Iona Fortune’s portfolio is a technically perfect cure for a crisis. With divinely inspired tracks each engulfing you their own gravitational force, Fortune replaces all the commotion in the world with a sense of unworldly direction. In the words of I Ching: “Music has the power to ease tension within the heart and to loosen the grip of obscure emotions”, and right now I think that’s the tonic everyone needs for their isolation ailments.

If you’d like to find out more about Iona Fortune you can follow her via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Her most recent album, Tao of I Volume 2, is now available to stream on Spotify.

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Image courtesy of Marc Wieland.