Release Date: Apr 2, 2013
Record label: Iamsound
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic
“One love from carriage to hearse / Till the end of time we’ll always be / The Outsiders.” Hallelujah and be still thy beating heart. If you’ve come looking for Mr and Mrs Apple Pie you’re in the wrong neighbourhood. This ‘ere’s a place for cracked hearts, pining spirits, disenfranchised dreamers and tear-stained, bruised bards. Graveyard Girls n’ Lost Boys with Lugosi eyes, translucent alabaster skin and an unhealthy penchant for noir.
Gauzy industrial pop laced with remnants of early '90s shoegaze, Ministry of Love is a surreal window into the world of Los Angeles group IO Echo. Singer Ioanna Gika's voice is haunting and feminine, at times shrouded in reverb and impossible to decipher. And while there are standout tracks along the way, there is a palpable rift between them and the rest of the album.
The debut album by Los Angeles-based duo IO Echo begins with a bombastic burst in the opening number "Shanghai Girls." It signals a confident presence and ambitious agenda by a band that's been saddled from the start with plenty of labels and expectations by critics and fans alike. Shaking off those labels, which include buzzwords like "dark," "murky," and "gothic," the band forges ahead with songs that are precise and synthetic but nevertheless elude falling into a formulaic rut of ho-hum electronic rock. .
Purveying moody, Asian-tinged synth pop described as "New Orientalism," Io Echo's debut album Ministry of Love purports to draw from '90s industrial and George Orwell's dystopian masterpiece 1984, along with the duo's fondness for kotos, Chinese violins, and kimonos. Often, however, Ministry of Love's mix of lilting, Asian-sounding melodies and Ioanna Gika's strong vocals suggests dreamy, slow-mo variations on Siouxsie and the Banshees' "Hong Kong Garden," especially on the opening track "Shanghai Girls. " Elsewhere, Zola Jesus' doomy spaciousness ("Stalemate") and Grimes' fusion of East Asian and goth elements ("Draglove") pop up as touchstones.
When a band flaunts their influences as nakedly as Io Echo does, it's hard not to read their debut as a kind of sonic autobiography. Every musician grew up listening to what would eventually become the foundation of their own writing, and the best artists can hope for in their early years is to move past mimicking their idols to building something new from what they've learned. On Ministry of Love, we're led to new--or at least engagingly composite--sounds, but not until we're first invited to acknowledge the seeds from which they grew.
The first two songs of IO Echo’s debut Ministry of Love reference Shanghai, two others are titled “Tiananmen Square” and “Berlin, It’s All A Mess”, while the PG erotica of “Drag Love” is set in Hanoi. It isn’t until the penultimate track where IO Echo mention the city they’re actually from-- Los Angeles, and even then it’s a namedrop of Chinatown. By that point, you may have already pegged them as an L.A.