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Imbogodom

The Metallic Year

(Thrill Jockey; US: 24 Aug 2010; UK: 23 Aug 2010)

Sometimes, music is scary. Not scary in the way that Master of Puppets might frighten the elderly couple down the street or in the way It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back tries to strike fear in the heart of the American establishment, but, like, legitimately sort of spooky. Thrill Jockey band Imbogodom makes that kind of eerie music, all vaguely haunted sounds and underlying dread. A duo comprised of the UK’s Alexander Tucker and New Zealand’s Daniel Beban, Imbogodom recently produced its debut LP, The Metallic Year, and it’s an album that creates a certain mood, for sure.


Even the band’s origins are a little creepy: Beban had a night job at the BBC, where he and Tucker would explore old reels of tapes once the studios had emptied out for the evenings. These sonic experiments led to the creation of Imbogodom, in which the two men make music equal parts found sounds, samples, and live instrumentation. This blend can often be otherworldly, recognizable as originally organic but now transformed into something colder, something more distant and harder to hold.


Opener “The Metallic Year Pt. 1” provides about a minute of dissonance and static, a sort of cleansing of the palate for what’s to come. “Unseen Ticket”, the first proper song on the record, mixes strings, banjo, and piano with the regular chirping of what sounds like some kind of distant beacon. Human voices, guttural and fleeting, may be lurking somewhere in the mix, too. As the song builds in volume toward its conclusion, one has the indelible sense of the walls closing in.


Those voices—groans, chants, moans. “Of the Cloth” and “The Endless Body” use them to great effect, their words indistinguishable—if there, at all—but their overall tone and dramatic weight central to both tracks’ successes. These are not voices to converse with, in either sense of the word: One wouldn’t want to talk to whatever creature’s producing them, nor would that creature seem to inhabit a place solidly human enough to warrant an approach in the first place. The strange, pixilated keys (or is it marimba?) on “Indosoap” evoke an alien world of a different manner, not quite threatening but definitively unusual and disorienting.


The album’s second half proves to be even more dense, layered with noises and the ghosts of noises. The one-two punch of “Bvsh Hovse Ghost” and “Report from Iron Mountain” might be the album’s strongest point, or at least the moments in which its intentions seem to crystallize. The former builds itself around guitar harmonics and plucked strings, while another one of those groaning guest vocalists swerves in and out of the mix. It’s not a dynamic song, relying mainly on the repetition of its elements, but that repetition works in creating the sense of unease that the album seems so intent upon eliciting. “Report” functions similarly, though its weapon is the album’s strongest—a clattering, distorted recording of a man’s voice, shifting in pitch from disturbingly low to eerily high. His words are mostly indiscernible, but that’s where Imbogodom succeeds most: They pull the alien from the familiar, using their samples and archived sounds to transform such a mundane noise as a man speaking to an answering machine into something altogether different and, it has to be said, often subtly disturbing.

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Corey Beasley is a staff writer at PopMatters and Cokemachineglow. He graduated from George Mason University with an MFA in Creative Writing in 2011. He lives in Brooklyn and makes a big show out of missing the South. You can contact him at coreylaynebeasley_at_gmail_dotcom.


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