If you didn’t know it before listening, you’d never know that Spirit Volume was recorded and composed long-distance. Crafted by Vancouver electronic renaissance man Will Ballantyne, aka City, and Victoria, BC multi-instrumentalist Maxwell Patterson, aka i.o., Spirit Volume shows the two artists weaving together drums and guitar, piano, and processed samples with heavy effects. The melodic synthesizers of Vancouver electronic artist x/o feature on the penultimate track, the kinetic and lush “YS.”
On Spirit Volume, both artists put their faith in one another. Over email, Ballantyne mentions their collaborative, trusting process—“We almost never rolled back each other’s additions or subtractions,” he says. The synergy shows: Ballantyne’s processed guitar shapeshifts constantly, intermingling with Patterson’s contributions. The somnambulant opener “Anxiety Object” has a rumbling atmosphere that’s buttressed by Patterson’s masterful, dynamic percussion—all of which was captured either by camera or field recorder—as well as manipulated samples.
Patterson’s drumming is a treat, especially on “Anxiety Object” and “Faith,” the album’s second song. “Faith” begins with a dry, free jazz drum solo atop a light crackling that eventually gives way to operatic electronics; despite all of this drama, the track reaches a calming denouement. In addition to the song’s stand-out percussion, it’s got a clear arc, which is impressive for its two-and-a-half-minute runtime, building to a swell and then ambling back down.
Composed over an extended period, Spirit Volume is naturally patient, an album that reveals more of itself with repeated listens. It’s a meticulous and careful collection—trying to uncover the ins and outs of each composition is a joy. But with so much going on in each song, it’s hard to imagine figuring out its secrets any time soon.