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I suppose this is the little brother predecessor to 'Catch Thirtythree', but ironically it works a whole lot better than that more recognized album. Both are essentially the same thing: Meshuggah attempts to create a single album-long (or EP-long in this case) track through slow development of themes and a rather ambient sense of construction. Honestly, the only difference might be length: listening to Meshuggah cave your head in with chugging riffs does definitely work better when it's in a package somewhat more bite-sized rather than the daunting, nearly fifty-minute length of 'Catch Thirtythree'. I'm inclined to say the songwriting is better too though; where 'Catch Thirtythree' felt rather choppy and inconsistent from movement to movement, 'I' works in a much more organic fashion. It's just a better piece overall.
Just from looking at the length of this track, you can probably guess that development of the song is a slow process, and it definitely is. Beginning with over a minute and a half of repetitive chugging and double bass before the track begins in earnest, you can tell pretty quickly that you're in for a rather absorbed, patient listen. Surprisingly enough, the first half or so of 'I' has some of the most straightforward, 'Contradictions Collapse'-style material that Meshuggah had done in years at this point. Traditional thrash rhythms about the first half of the disc, culminating in what's practically a breakdown halfway through. The delivery of the music tends to slow down over the course of the disc, from the speedy, brutal beginning to a punishing, doomy second half which is just as memorable as the first.
I'd say the second half is where this really shines, though. Sounding rather directly similar to 'Catch Thirtythree' in its monochromatic, dreary delivery, the latter half of 'I' is one of the most oppressive pieces I've ever heard from Meshuggah. Violently crushing, muted chords over the steady, chiming rhythms of Haake come together to create something surprisingly bleak and unsettling, even by Meshuggah's established standards. The progression of the disc is actually pretty involving even with its anti-climax of sorts: all the noise and chaos slips away into something much more ordered, mechanical, and punishing later on, and in this regard it works much better than had the band attempted to do the opposite.
This is actually one of Meshuggah's strongest overall works and a much better execution of the single-track release idea than 'Catch Thirtythree'. If you can stomach the rather ambitious ordeal that listening to this work is, you'll definitely find something very impressive in what might appear to be aimlessness. Definitely recommending this to any fans of the band- don't let it slip away just because it's an EP. It's definitely worth your time.