Ian Svenonius Shares ‘Found-Sound-Dream-Drama’ Solo Debut, ‘Introduction to Escape​-​ism’

Ian S

For the past two decades, Ian Svenonius has served as one of D.C.’s founding fathers of the punk scene. Having fronted iconic bands such as Nation of Ulysses and the Make-Up, Svenonius’ musical DNA helped to shape the punk scene not only in D.C. but across the country. Now, Svenonius has released his debut solo record under the un-lofty title Introduction to Escape​-​ism, which he loftily bills as a “Found-Sound-Dream-Drama starring Ian Svenonius.”

Introduction to Escap-ism begins with the lo-fi electronic macabre “Walking in the Dark,” which pits a ‘set it and forget it’ drum machine beat and some hazy keyboards against antiquated movie grade sound effects of thunder and lightning. This same application of simple electronica outfitted with slithering tape hiss parallel to Svenonius’s own serpent-like sneering vocal delivery infiltrates many of these songs. The tongue-in-cheek history lesson “Rome Wasn’t Burnt in a Day” has the austere feeling of an after-hours lounge act somewhere off the strip in Vegas; it conjures up visions of spasmodic-colored Christmas lights blinking along out of sync with the off-kilter, pre-programmed beats of a child’s Casio keyboard and the sharp intermittent swathes of electric guitar.

Throughout Introduction to Escape-ism, the music remains somber and cavernously gothic. It helps to keep Escape-ism from sounding like an even more avant-garde offshoot of one of his previous projects. What is being highlighted here, however, is what the singer has always brought to the table; pithy vocals, as distinctive as a creaky floorboard, and the curt, dead-on lyrical delivery of a street poet. Svenonius has no use for simile and uses metaphor sparingly if at all. He narrates his dark tales of modern reality with a sharp, almost blood curdling brevity. On the heavy “Iron Curtain” he opens up directly to the listener with the unglamorous narrative, “why don’t you try living like that/one wrong move and you’re out on the street/can’t pay your bill/can’t pay your rent/one wrong move/your dead meat.”

He challenges the changing culture from an older man’s perspective on “Almost No One (Can Have My Love)” citing the fact that even though technology has finally brought Warhol’s oracle to fruition, there’s only so long one can last on a diet of fame when there’s so much out there to consume.  This may be the strongest message on this papier-mâché production of a record. Introduction to Escape-ism, in its intricate simplicity, seeks to prove nothing, contrary to the solo efforts of countless frontmen who’ve vaingloriously sought to distance themselves from their previous claims to fame, trying to prove they can succeed on their own.