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Album Review: IO Echo – IO Echo EP

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Los Angeles duo Io Echo have lingered at the edge of big attention for a while. They were personally selected by Trent Reznor to open for Nine Inch Nails’ last-ever gig, composed the score for the Harmony Korine and James Franco film Rebel, and supported acts such as TV on the Radio and Florence and the Machine. The most interesting part of their building buzz, though, might be the media-delivered genre label “new orientalism.”

As far as such labels go, new orientalism is an especially unfortunate one, but what makes it noteworthy is that it might be entirely new. Io Echo’s sound has discernible influences, namely 80’s indie guitar stylings, New Age, and Eastern Asian instrumentation, but it’s the marriage of these disparate worlds into something fresh that intrigues. Uptempo soarer “When the Lilies Die” takes industrial rhythms, shoegaze textures, and gothic undertones and sends them to another world via koto harps,  Chinese violins, and Ioanna Gika’s airy vocals.

On “Ministry of Love”, the title track from their upcoming long-awaited full-length debut, the Cure’s “Fascination Street” bassline is almost unrecognizable in a new atmosphere built from pop melodies, Asian influences, and British rock sounds. Robert Smith’s spectre similarly haunts the bombast of “Shanghai Girls”, while “Carnation” is the proverbial John Hughes Soundtrack inclusion. The “new orientalism” of IO Echo is, though troubling, a refreshing appropriation; a little weird, but accessibly so, the blend of sounds makes the long-brewed anticipation for the duo’s upcoming album even harder to endure.

Essential Tracks: “When Lilies Die”, “Ministry of Love”

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