City & i.o

Spirit Volume

[PTP; 2019]

Rating: 3.5/5

Save for their home province (British Columbia) and their equally un-Googleable names, there’s little overlap between solo artists City and i.o, whose first collab marks the pair’s debut effort on PTP.
i.o treats the EP format like drip cloths in an action painter’s studio, revelling in his oeuvre without paying much mind to its individual installments. The tracks are lengthy — often clocking out at the 20-minute mark — and uniformly dense, composed of never-ending drum fills and meandering guitaristry that rarely slow down or transcend their labyrinth of brute improvisation. It’s intensely cerebral stuff: all headspace, as if Ornette Coleman sat in on a post-hardcore outfit’s practice session.
City’s discography is no less jarring, but his industrial synthscapes are confined to recognizable structures: metal-inspired crescendos, cinematic slabs of fight-scene tech-noir, and lumbering club deconstructions that feel right at home on the PTP imprint.
A careful reassembly of the duo’s collective strengths would work well on paper. Admittedly, I imagined i.o’s maximalist percussion underlying trancey synth leads as I downloaded my advanced copy of Spirit Volume. To my surprise, though, the pair’s signature sounds rarely surface in recognizable forms. Instead, this particular fusion dance results in ominous sludge resembling the carbon left behind in a tin of burnt sugar. Chunky pulses of bass slowly pull listeners through hovering drones and slap-chopped drums. Seatbelted into the wubs, there’s nowhere to go but up, in perpetuity — coaster tracks clacking, no hillcrest in sight.
Spirit Volume by City & i.o
Spirit Volume’s strongest moments

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