Prima Crush / Discos Tormento
Rating: 81
by Marty Preciado

MCMXCVIII (or 1998) had been in production for years, with Ibi Ego's proclivity for perfection keeping their light in the dark, so much so that their debut album was becoming more and more of a far-fetched idea. It took time for the Tijuana band to burnish sound and deliver an album encompassing high caliber production, sound, and overall quality, but, thanks to Tijuana cassette label Prima Crush and Mexico City's renowned Discos Tormento, the album finally came to light.

And the result is superb dream pop, a gem sitting somewhere between Xiu Xiu and Cocteau Twins. It’s bathed in synths, loops, melody, noise, fuss, and guitars; all of the aforementioned conducive to lush lo-fi textures. The complex layers of instruments are backed by You Schaffner’s beatific voice, glowing over rich melodies.

Catering and staying true to the bi-national identity of their city, the album consists of 10 tracks intermingling in Spanish and English. "You and me vs. the sea" is the opening song of the album, and it’s explosive. Accented with pulsing sounds, it conjures a frenetic strobe in the dark. The track is enhanced with electronic beats leading to a dynamic mix of a reverb-tinged dream and haunting nostalgia. It's the perfect juxtaposition: light and dark, haunting and joyful, melancholy and happiness.

The jaw-dropping, hair-raising, synth-drenched "1998" sends chills down the spine. The soothing vocals enveloped in guitar loops usher in kick drums that heighten the song to a steady build up of layers of reverb and clashing sounds. But a breakdown of the tracks of the album would be a mistake. The album serves as one piece, with every song intertwined with the next, a natural and organic flow of sounds and ambience.

A debut album is the hallmark of the sound of a band, but most importantly, it establishes the foundation for further output. With no doubt, Ibi Ego has not only reaffirmed their talent in execution, but has also pushed the boundaries of sound to deliver an album whose clashes and contrasts, like a risky chemical reaction gone surprisingly right, surpasses conventional formula and structure to create something new and exciting. It forces the listener to expect the unexpected, to believe in the surreal, and to embrace it all. This is what dreams are made of, and MCMXCVIII is the laboratory where it all happens.

♫♫♫ "Hookie"