The album's first track, "Premeditating The First Gate," begins with harsh hi-hats and concussive war drums, but as these elements slow down and ebb away, it begins to hum with glassy ambient voices, the drumming reduced to a fading heartbeat. Ragged edges and discoloured surfaces are intrinsic to the album's character, but its most engaging moments come when its more forgiving side wins out. "Kingdom Of North America, Citizen's Archival Recording #024" begins with soft, pedal-distorted guitar notes that nudge their way into an airy ambient space with a gloomy spoken word vocal. Drums come in now and then, but never quite puncture the atmosphere. "Wavefront", which sits at the album's centre, is the most moderate of these droney techno trips, with thrumming skin percussion and another spoken word passage—a balm to the record's rough textures—on top of synths that howl like wolves in the wind.
At its most unyielding, however, I Look Upon Nature While I Live In A Steel City is simply too inflexible in its approach. When the album really goes for it—as is it does on "Bit Back Straight Spine" and "A Much Updated Ruin From A Much Outdated Style"—the drum programming can be stubbornly thin and monotonous. This matters less on a 20-minute EP, but an album's worth of it gets dreary. Parts of this record are beautiful, but uncovering those moments takes time, and the reward doesn't always justify the effort.