Review Summary: The post-rock experience, as written by an improving act in the genre.
To this day, something about the opening chords of “Twins” from I/O’s debut Saudade
resonates with me. The ambient guitars are drenched in a nostalgic atmosphere that immediately spurs a journey back through my past, remembering memories of carefree times characterized by nothing but relaxation and youthful defiance to the future. Revisiting the album a fair bit, however, led to the realization that such an evocative sensation did not fully endure for the full duration of the disc; thus, its value slowly fell down the wayside. There were scattered moments that provoked genuine reaction, but they were muted by issues of repetition and a general exhaustion of ideas—a typical problem with jam-oriented post-rock. Yet, the feeling generated within “Twins” remained. It doesn’t show up in a given song rotation too often anymore, but when it does, it consistently causes some cursory pause, this brief lapse in concentration almost too fleeting to perceive. Its this longevity and persistence of emotional impact that post-rock can really excel at, crafting lush landscapes of delicately-oriented instrumentation to transport the listener through a diverse array of themes. I/O seem to agree; their sophomore release, Anyone, Anywhere
, showcases the band noticeably maturing in their songwriting. Gone are the repetitive tendencies of the preceding record, now replaced by an expansive approach to each track, relying more on climax-based post-rock as opposed to the loose format of Saudade
. Combined with an additional emphasis on textured settings and purposeful build-ups, Anyone, Anywhere
ups the ante on expressive performance and colorful scenery.
The general pleasantness that characterized Saudade
is retained in the production, complimenting the soft nature of each entry. Rather than aiming solely for nostalgic recollections, Anyone, Anywhere
acts as a soaring, peaceful foray through the skies: the melodically-toned guitar strings are as light as clouds, drifting slightly above reach, while the fluctuating percussion—quietly tapping at one instance only to explode in a controlled flurry the next—is the wind rushing past your ears, sounding like a whisper yet carrying the strength of a yell. This restraint, contradicted by the forceful crescendos embarked upon in the more spacious tracks, ultimately develop the compelling experience that I/O provide. Those points where the band decides to fully commit to a burst of instrumentation are particularly reduced; that way, when they do rain down, an authentic storm of harmonious chords punctuated by the backing thunderclap of the bass, the effect is pronounced. Admittedly, it is disappointing to almost completely sacrifice the math-rock-esque adventures arranged in Saudade
due to their more directly engaging styling. Though only punching in at a surprisingly brief 40-minute runtime, Anyone, Anywhere
is a record that indeed requires more dedication from the audience. Part of this must be credited to the ability of the group to somehow stretch out the duration of songs in their more cinematic approach, making their impact larger than their sizes initially convey.
What eventually exemplifies I/O’s transition from immediacy to concentrated, uplifting swells are the trio of 6-minute-plus tracks, whose towering presence equate to skyscrapers. Anything and everything that makes the group successful in their configurations merges; “60 // South” unites an ambient, key-backed introduction with a drumming showcase that grows in intensity, finally crashing into an effective exhibition of clean guitar tones; “To Everyone I Could Have Loved…” progresses through various sections of alternating heaviness and meticulous ambiance; and “Rte. 89” slowly marches towards the album’s conclusion guided by a sustained, poignant chord. Unfortunately, such highlights dwarf fellow compositions on the record due to their comparatively weaker performances. Stacked against one another, efforts like “Allston” and “CB, MA” seemingly function more like steps in a grander voyage. The impact of that voyage—the emotion that slowly eases off of note, converting from the speakers to the heart—manages to outweigh the faults. Rather than just being limited to singular demonstrations of potential brilliance like “Twins,” Anyone, Anywhere
features multiple. It’s more than a collective growing up as a whole and gradually finding themselves; this is the post-rock that my mind can find solace in. And if I can silently slip away into the stratosphere through I/O’s build-ups, that’s worthy of praise in my book.