Written by: AP on 22/12/2010 12:46:23

Call it whatever you want, progressive hardcore or post metal, albums like io's sophomore effort "Materioptikon" will never realize their full potential resonating from a set of speakers, let alone headphones. Music like this is angled at the live setting, where the aural grandeur can be conjoined with a cinematic visual experience, be it with projections or nuanced lighting. At the very least, listening to the musical equivalent of the moon's conversion from a glowing, white golf ball into a fearsome, reddish planet, as io's soundscape has sometimes been described, demands an undivided attention and the ability to form vivid mental imagery.

Indeed, while not as cathartic as Rinoa's "An Age Among Them", "Materioptikon" is every bit as challenging and expansive in its approach; its tonal palette an equally immense collage of colour and shade. But where Rinoa are consistently heavy in their delivery, io opt for a cleaner, more subtle approach akin to Explosions in the Sky and Mogwai, leaving the heavy parts for the occasional climatic revelation. As such, the music enters loops of droning introspection before rare escalation - much like the concept of escape velocity in physics. Imagine a stellar object in orbit due to gravitational pull, peaceful and silent yet in command of considerable speed and force, gradually accelerating to annul its kinetic and gravitational potential energy so as to break free and shoot off into the vast expanse of space - this is, in essence, the nature of "Materioptikon".

It is as beautiful as it is thought-provoking, but lags behind Rinoa in its infatuation with small note patterns which are explored in minute detail before moving on, effectively creating instances where io seem stuck in ambiance. When these moments arise, it feels as though io are caught planning their next move, lingering out of reach at the tip of their fingers, before one of the four musicians has had enough and enters a new loop of repetition. The positive outcome is that when the riffs finally distort, the gratification is that much greater, but at the same time, intensity is kept at bay far too often, and for far too long to truly stun.

That is not to say that "Materioptikon" is without value, as it nonetheless reflects a collective intelligence most bands can only dream of; its soundscapes full of texture. In being less harsh than Rinoa, io manage the state of trance far better, if at the cost of sometimes lulling the listener into a coma. Fans of post-rock and post-metal will rejoice, while those expecting more in the vein of opener "Five Ton Man" will inevitably find themselves a little disappointed by the tranquility that prevails during the rest of the album.


Download: Five Ton Man, If You Don't Trust Me, Trust My Berreta, This Is Where the Cat Lives
For the fans of: Explosions in the Sky, Isis, Mogwai, Mouth of the Architect
Listen: Myspace

Release date 15.11.2010
Grammatical Records

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