It’s hard to pin i.o down – finding a foothold among the scattered sonics of Flutter for Spirit Destruction (or any of the artist’s myriad releases) is an act requiring perseverance, patience for the inevitable clarity that comes once your perspective aligns with i.o’s. That’s the key thing, I think – maneuvering yourself so that you can see things the way i.o wants you to see them (or in this case, hear them), kind of like ol’ Indiana Jones does with the help of some cinematography in The Last Crusade, where only a leap from the lion’s head will he prove his worth. Right? I love that movie. This is totally different though – mostly it’s finding a way to carve a path through the forest of drum patterns will we as listeners prove our worth, or at least be able to enjoy ourselves along the way.
Because that’s the way in, the opening that suddenly appears – through the forest of drum patterns. I.o is nothing if not a prolific drummer – seriously, dude loves his drums! And he’s really good at it, pounding away for several minutes on end – well, make that fluttering if we’re going to draw parallels and make connections. See, Flutter, and i.o in general, occupies a space where math rock meets the avant-garde, where one person’s experimentalism manifests itself in ways that a full band wouldn’t probably be able to comprehend, let alone replicate with any regularity. And the six tracks here are long, even by math rock standards, with the shortest at 6:20, and all others no shorter than 9:01 with the lengthiest of them doubling that time.
The virtuosic drumming is accompanied most often by gently picked and droning guitar and bass, counterpoints anchoring the flourishes. It’s the tonal structure of the strings – often bent, frequently sour – that points me also toward emo when considering the i.o Venn diagram, but the Rainer Maria/Bedhead kind, which is actually more of a slowcore-type stigma than anything. This is all great – I had a big math rock phase and a big slowcore phase, and I’d eagerly anticipate Southern and Jade Tree and Kranky releases. I.o is that kind of artist, one who lets the music do the heavy lifting for emotional release without the clumsy addition of text to muddy the clear expressions.
Flutter for Spirit Destruction is as appropriate a description as you can get for this album. It’s a heavy, heady listen, and the drums are just magnificent. It’s sort of a backward compositional blueprint for such a contemplative work, with the drums providing almost all the tension and release and the guitars acting as additional flavor. (Samples of?) strings appear here and there as well, as do (samples of?) human voices, both of which add texture. There’s really nobody I can think of that makes music quite like i.o, and for that reason alone he’s worth seeking out. And of course it’s worth sticking around for the record’s entirety once you’ve got that whole perspective thing sorted.