Synth pop duo Io Echo takes influence from the Eastern world to create a style of pop with depth and layers. Their debut full-length album, “Ministry of Love,” combines a number of different sounds—from delicate singing to traditional Asian instruments to heavy distortion—to create new, complex sounds.
Io Echo often juxtaposes Gika’s feminine, ethereal vocals with harder, more electronic instrumentation into tracks that manage to highlight the power of each without sounding discordant or chaotic. Title track “Ministry of Love” gives off an alternative, garage band vibe, with heavy drums and distortion. Though it sounds like it’s been put through similar filters, Gika’s voice stands out against the melody as its soft, elegant counterpart, adding a lightness to it that’s both unexpected and refreshing. “Ecstasy Ghost,” on first listen, seems to have a fairly straightforward pop melody with layered vocal tracks to add interest and depth. Both parts, however, are more complex than they first appear, with strings (they sound like a Japanese koto harp) and vocals arranged in the round bring color to the song and add to its catchiness. Gika sounds more indie on “Addicted” than most other tracks, the deeper tone complimenting the avant-garde, experimental melody.
On other songs, the different components fail to come together cohesively and instead create a whole that is less than its parts. For instance, “Draglove” attempts to unite an overly fast-moving, techno-esque beat with more moderately-paced pop vocals. Unlike the albums more successful tracks, these two elements are out of sync the entire track, the vocals constantly trying to catch up to the instrumentation. “Outsiders” combines the use of the tradition Japanese koto harp and a modern, drum-driven beat effortlessly, but the addition of Gika’s voice complicates the balance. The track is quite beautiful, but its elements are all beautiful in the same way, in the same style so they end up blending together into a fairly one-note piece. And on a totally subjective level, I have no patience for final tracks that end with a secret song after several minutes of silence. Even without that personal peeve, “Ministry of Love” hits several notes of genius, but does take some missteps on its journey to them.