Lo-fi LA duo delivers with first EP
Heavily hyped duo IO Echo have finally come out with a small offering that fans can take with them, in the form of a very rich five-song EP. The eponymous EP has many of the songs they’ve been perfecting while playing in the LA indie scene and beyond, including the single “When The Lillies Die.” Lo-fi dissonance leads into an almost whistle-like hook, weaving in between vocals and tinny, pounding drums. The fluttering effects of hand claps and an understandably echo-drenched choir are completely engrossing. The track straddles an interesting line of influence: it’s as if the ever-popular stoner beach aesthetic of California swam to the shores of China. “When The Lillies Die” is a great primer; it’s IO Echo in a nutshell.
Opener “Shanghai Girls” comes on like a tidal wave with each crashing cymbal and militant drumbeat. The synth arpeggios start off a bit harsh, but become more fluid throughout the song, like a musical ebb and flow. It’s ultimately effective, but a repetitive vocal melody shoved to the forefront of the song takes away from the often obscured soundscape below. Aside from a prominent Asian influence that rules its melodies, the IO Echo sound is also described as dark or gothic. “Outsides (Slow Mix)” is an obvious example of that dark, gothic ambiance. The slow-burn shoegaze beats, soaring strings, and lovelorn lyrics are visceral in their longing.
“Carnation” offers the most stark change in attitude on the EP. Where there’s major regret darkening the mood throughout the previous tracks, the sheer nostalgia of this closing track warms the soul. Coincidentally, the only duet out of all five tracks is where vocals shine most. IO Echo might be dating themselves with this one; it’s a definite nod to the ’80s done in a self-assured style. As a relatively new band, a bit of adding and tweaking may take place but the essence of IO Echo is a unique flavor that should have an enduring presence in Los Angeles and beyond.