iiO is a name you may recall. Having made a considerable splash in the early 2000’s with some of the most hypnotic melodies, the combination of Nadia Ali and Markus Moser seemed to be refreshing dance floor ambrosia. The pair’s alluring medley of sultry vocals and captivating production gave singles like “Rapture,” “At the End" and “Smooth” significant life in clubs and iPods alike. iiO’s success would last them for five singles and an album, Poetica, before the working relationship became untenable. Nadia Ali and Markus Moser parted ways in 2005. Moser would continue to release material featuring Ali’s vocals after the split, beginning with 2006’s single, “Is It Love?”, as well as future remixes of “Rapture” and “At the End.” With pressure from the industry and fans alike, Moser would create a second album using pre-recorded material by Ali. The result of this iiO-posthumous collaboration would be called Exit 110, both as a nod to the demise of the group and also the potential end of usable material from Ali. All signs point to “no” for Ali continuing to work with Moser, and the impression she left on their earlier singles is unsurprisingly missing from this new material. Don’t expect to be wowed with Exit 110.
Solo project - not really a group effort
Left to his own devices, Moser seems to try to overload Ali's vocals with as much as he possibly can. What may have been intriguing new compositions feel bogged down with heavy beats, excessive atmospheric sounds and oppressive synths. Take the lead single from the album, “It'll Be Like.” It begins much as a classic iiO song would, with Ali's deep humming leading up to a simple and bouncy verse. As the song progresses, more and more “stuff” finds it's way into the track, until Ali is all but drowned out. As current as Moser tries to be on Exit 110, it still boils down to the old adage, “less is more.” Conversely, more is less and it's obvious that the album tries too hard to be more. Tracks like “More (Love Hi),”, “Meant to Be,” “I Don't Know” and “Don't Talk To Her” can easily be described as 'heavy handed'. The music simply overwhelms what made iiO iiO, and that was Nadia Ali's voice. Without the original flair the duo created, the pairing of Moser's new style of electronica coupled with older samples of Ali's voice come across as flat, overbearing and dispassionate.
Maybe the newbies will like it?
However, for a new generation of electronic music lovers, Exit 110 may be just the ticket needed to draw fresh attention to the pair. Moser's music is definitely aimed at the current mainstream, with a heavy focus on hard beats and fast tempos. The need for immediacy in electronic music gives iiO's new tracks more of a pop slant than ever before. So it's understandable that a fast and upbeat song like “Fiend” can be followed up by the mellower, retro-esque “Holiday.” “Poetica II” serves as an interesting spoken word track, filled with longing sighs and a pulsing beat, making the track an odd counterpoint to the rest of the album. However, on the album "Poetica," a similar track was included. Nadia's poetry was set to a more ambient sound then, though, giving the focus fully to her and her words, rather than the beat.
iiO's final Exit 110 probably shouldn't have been made. The group was done and over, and using Nadia's older recorded material only to over-blow it with excessive production seems more like a slap in the face than anything else. It definitely isn't a compliment to iiO fans or those who love "Rapture." I honestly can't even pick a standout from the album, as I had such a hard time just listening through it. I'll say this though: if you like it, you like it, and more power to you. But I won't be recommending this to anyone.
CD released May 2011 on Made Records.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the record label. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.