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Cio D'Or
All In All Albert Freeman , May 22nd, 2015 13:15

Sometimes the twists of fate in the music industry can baffle even the most attentive observers. A case in point is Cio D'Or, the dub-drone techno producer turned experimentalist who, in her 2009-2011 heydey, was both collaborator and competitor for public notice with Donato Dozzy, co-producing an EP for Time To Express and a deservedly celebrated mix for the sadly defunct mnml ssgs blog. Then, almost without warning, she seemed to mostly vanish from the scene, even as her name continued to hold currency. I remember running into her on the back of the infamous Concrete barge in Paris in 2013 and watching a portion of her predictably excellent DJ set, quietly wondering what she had been up to in the 2 years since her Magnetfluss EP for Prologue.

It turns out Cio didn't disappear entirely in that long interim but simply retreated to her home turf in Cologne, to her studio where the ideas debuted on the last Prologue EP were beginning to take form into something even more interesting. In the meantime, a pair of widely-separated 10" EPs for Traum Schallplatten sublabel Telrae quietly appeared, probably the highest profile artist ever to release there, and two remixes, a front on which she had never been very active. Three years of studio silence is enough in contemporary time to damp almost any producer's career, and while the sound made famous by Prologue peaked commercially well after its creative peak around 2012, Cio was producing her most interesting music yet. Now emerging on Semantica is All In All, an ambitious three part album, with a bonus ambient mix CD that blurs the lines between mixing and production by rearranging the material and bringing in new music.

The time away from touring turned out to be time well spent. Throughout the first 8 years of her production career, Cio D'Or's music had been consistently interesting if reserved, often pushed under other umbrellas, and, for much of the time, took a back seat to her DJ career. The situation only righted itself with her first Prologue album, Die Faser, a record still deeply indebted to techno convention but imbued with her unique, still-recognisable personality. Taken together, the three parts of All In All are deeply more experimental and, at their most dancefloor-leaning, trade in extremes of minimalism, but they also move into gorgeous ambient portions that don't bring easy comparisons to mind. 'Tomorrow Was Yesterday' is a striking example, the string swells recalling Gas until a keyboard melody line suddenly takes off at midpoint, all the time urged on by explosions of reverb and subtly propulsive, repeated drum lines.

Getting off to such a strong start, one might expect the record to peak too soon, but the worry is entirely unfounded, and the first part, After And Before, is consistently compelling and ends as strongly as it starts with the powerful drone-ambient rhythms and delicate piano melodies of 'Now Is Ever'. Floor X, the second section, is a Cio D'Or interpretation of reduced acid-bleep minimalism, something that invites comparison to a more tripped-out version of Mika Vainio, perhaps combined with early Plastikman in its more propulsive moments. There are watery reverbs, delay artifacts, and psychedelic panning here though, and while techno this abstract has found its share of practitioners, not a great amount of it exists that equals this in quality. 'XLIV For Mike', a dedication to Mike Parker, stands out with a surging, harshly filtered bassline, and alien, circling synthesiser that make the tribute explicit, but accomplishes the rare feat of meeting her influences in terms of creativity while also paying homage.  

The final part, Yocta To Yotta, begins similarly to the previous one, at least in terms of rhythmic structure, but she quickly brings in samples of traditional Japanese instruments, again with disorienting panning and echoes. Her own assessment of these final four tracks as her 'warmer side' is accurate mostly, with the Parker-influenced 'Yotta', again with a surging, heavily filtered bass, making a slight return to the previous hardness, before it slowly evaporates in the final two pieces of ambient dub, both formed in a more classicist mould but no less impressive than anything else here for the depth and quality of the production. The closing pair is perhaps the record's slowest moment and, on a full-length not deliberately split up like this, could have benefited from different sequencing, but as an extended wind-down to an intense album it serves its purpose even if lacking the momentum and originality of the previous sides.

Given her long hiatus and the diminishing returns of the scene she originally rose to note as a member of, All In All comes at a time somewhat past its point of greatest impact but still as a career peak for Cio D'Or's artistry. The triptych structure and experimentalism plays to her favour, forcing D'Or to find new approaches to her personal sound and showing her to be not only inspired by masters of the genre, but also their equal at its brightest moments.