September 27, 2017

I Come to Shanghai: Low Pressure Review

(Texachussetts) After moving to Athens from California at the beginning of the decade, exploratory pop duo I Come to Shanghai released Eternal Life, Vol. 1 & 2, a double album full of big ideas. Five years on, the group returns with Low Pressure, a tighter, 13-track effort whose title suggests a modest mission.

In fact, Low Pressure is a leap forward for I Come to Shanghai, which has effectively merged its affinities for breezy guitar-pop and cinematic synth-scapes. Where songwriters Robert Ashley and Sam Frigard’s sensibilities once clashed, now they coexist. Songs like “You’re My Way Home” and “Swept Out in the Storm” are dreamy but unsentimental, proggy but unpretentious.

Despite its cozy lap steel and twinkling melody, there is a nagging sense of unease on Low Pressure. The album’s press materials describe “the idea of paradise falling apart: a band playing on a beach in the middle of a hurricane,” and its lyrics address the futility of creating art in the content age (“I thought I had something to say/ But when the chorus came, I unraveled,” Frigard sings in “Buried in the Sound”). But with its emphasis on cohesive collaboration, the record serves as its own rejoinder.