Atmospherically engrossing and instantly captivating is how I would describe my first listening experience of the 6-track self-titled EP by I Am Lono. And that experience is both exciting and rare. If asked to define their sound, I would say the music is dark synth wave, but the duo out of Nottingham transcend and morph into other musical realms too.
Opening track “Infra Red” starts the EP with rich, sweeping, melodic synths that remind of us the beauty of The Cure. Then the pronounced bass guitar hooks kick in and we are taken back to Joy Division’s Peter Hook. When Matthew Cooper sings, it’s the influence of David Bowie that ties it all together. Despite the comparisons however, I Am Lono have a sound that is unique and entirely their own.
“Why Everything Is Made Of Fives” builds on the formula with more aggression and drive propelled by the wall of sound guitars of David Startin. Its relentlessness is nothing short of addictive and oddly resonates in my mind long after the song has finished, like a sped up version of Ministry’s “Everyday Is Halloween”.
The anxious tension of “Only Love” touches the closest to Robert Smith territory you’ll find; and it’s pretty close to perfect. With vocals surrounded by synths that transform between dissonant monotoned alarms and threatening low-toned buzzsaws, it ends side one on a high note.
Side two takes a major departure in sound and style starting off with the eerily robotic “I Wanted To, Once”. It’s a composition of industrial sound and samples that Kraftwerk would take their hats off to, which transitions seamlessly into the beautifully melancholic instrumental “Waltz”.
We are reintroduced to Cooper’s vocals again on the EP’s final and wonderfully moody track “A Macquette”. It’s a perfect close for the EP embodying the Bowie-esqe vocal elements of side one with darker industrialized synths reminiscent of Depeche Mode’s early catalogue.
Throughout the EP, I Am Lono manages to infuse a perfect balance of light and dark with underlying currents of warmth and cold. It’s a delicate equilibrium that builds and releases tension throughout and creates an entrancing listening experience that never risks complacency.