Music to Draw To: Io is an hour-plus of carefully wrought, beat-light technical wizardry; it’s an album devoted to childlike wonder, so much so that it practically tells you as much in its title: “music to draw to.” As opposed to the more mature connotations of phrases like ‘making art,’ or even ‘to sketch,’ for these compositions, Koala wants you to know that he’s less concerned about rigid construction than he is interested in being exploratory. The music that the listener “draws” to is big, looping, and expansive, almost like a child’s scribbled fridge artwork — not so much in that it lacks attention to detail, but that is possesses the same feeling. Tones are warm and rounded; songs meander about, their sights firmly fixed on paths that do not follow straight lines; and featured vocals (provided by Belgian musician Trixie Whitley) fuzz and color the production, like dust particles adrift in space. In fact, Io has been promoted as a kind of extraterrestrial exploration, but that’s not quite accurate. The experience of listening to this album is more akin to wandering, wide-eyed, into a planetarium — a far cry from the cold, airless conditions of outer space. The timbre of the music may be Kid Koala’s most ominous to date, but the overall feel is lighter: mere curiosity at worst, sincerely optimistic at best.
Depending on one’s perspective, ‘outer space’ can be an enormously frightening concept, or it can summon an overwhelming sense of wonder; with Music to Draw To: Io, Kid Koala has opted for the latter, and he’s done a masterful job of finding the most innocent, beaming, and pure-hearted means of articulating it.
In other words, Io is a Kid Koala album, through and though: The Canadian DJ is best-known for teasing out the most playful bits of the older vinyl tracks that he’s sampled, capturing the least ‘blue’ parts of the blues and the most uplifting moments in a given soul chop, and warping these elements into the most danceable of medleys. Io is different in its mode, but not its mood — this is the kind of ambitious ambient work that fortifies the stature of a serious, methodically skilled electronic musician (even someone who does still sometimes perform in a koala onesie), an overwhelming and intense album, yet simultaneously joyful. Even as the vocals twinkle in and out, like barely visible stars, Io sustains a tone of cheerful buoyancy, offering a warm invitation to listeners to indulge in a fundamentally hopeful contemplation of their place in the world — all the while acknowledging that we exist on a minuscule rock, floating along aimlessly through a vast and unknowable universe. Depending on one’s perspective, ‘outer space’ can be an enormously frightening concept, or it can summon an overwhelming sense of wonder; with Music to Draw To: Io, Kid Koala has opted for the latter, and he’s done a masterful job of finding the most innocent, beaming, and pure-hearted means of articulating it.