I is something of a sonic experiment rather than a mere continuation of Föllakzoid’s blissed-out take on psychedelia. The Chileans’ earlier albums focused on repetition and cycles, sharing traits with kosmiche musik bands such as Neu!, Can and Faust and this is best exemplified on the superlative ‘Trees’ from their 2013 album II, boasting a nervous energy that is contagious. Their recordings were full band, one take affairs, but with I the musical parts were recorded entirely in isolation from one another, and these disparate recordings were given to producer Atom TM who worked the separate elements into cohesive wholes without being given any guidance or restrictions.

There is a unity to the four tracks here, imaginatively titled ‘I’, ‘II’, ‘III’ and ‘IIII’, which either makes the compositions blandly uniform or expressively homogenous, depending on your mood. And herein lies the rub. The greatest ambient musical works, think Brian Eno, Main or perhaps William Basinski, don’t necessarily grab attention, but earn it. I neither seeks the listener’s ear nor does it rely upon it. Föllakzoid have gone down the rabbit hole with this album, and some may not be overly inclined to follow.

Each track on the album is less a unit by itself, rather a part of a movement for the album as a whole, but there is a frustrating sense of familiarity in all four tracks which is ultimately disappointing. The shimmering electronics work well with the minimalist bass and the oscillating guitar tones, but all four tracks are underlined by a near identical motorik beat which, frustrates and fractures the trance-like state that is the driven aim of the music, as the potential meditative state of the listener is distracted and/or annoyed by the album’s tendency to revisit previous territory. This could be seen as a deliberately oppositional view of an ambient album for a reviewer to make, but if you listen to a masterpiece like Basinski’s The Disintegration Loops you soon realise that it is in the nuanced and subtle alterations to each musical cycle that genuine reverie is attained. At its core, the musical rotations on I do not ferment and gestate so much as flounder and wane.

‘III’ is probably the highlight here, only because it is the track which offers a moment of genuine surprise away from the monotonous and formulaic characteristics of the other songs. It is, as are all the tracks, propulsive, and it thrums in all the right places. Then, about two-thirds into its duration, a squelching throb of a bass line enters the fray and you almost feel ready to be taken somewhere else, away from the incessant and desultory tone of the album, only to be disappointed as you are led back to the slightly unsettling aural elements which lie at the centre of I.

The album is exactly an hour long with two of the tracks being precisely seventeen minutes and two being thirteen minutes. It is this juxtaposition between the loose structure and focus of the ‘songs’ and the clinical manner of their delivery which irks a little, and contradicts the band’s ethos of exploration and expansiveness. Maybe I’m being overly picky for a piece of work which has, let’s be honest, a fairly admirable experimental quality to it in terms of its process, but works of art in my mind are all about the outcome rather than their construction. By stripping away the organic nature of their music, Föllakzoid have managed to deliver an album which is disappointingly devoid of the humanity which was central to their previous work.

File under: Works better if you think of it as a remix album.

Oh, and it should be ‘IV’, by the way.