Music

Iglooghost Scales Back His Maximalism on the Clear Tamei / Steel Mogu EPs

Photo: Daisy Emily Warne

One of electronic music's most promising maximalists, Iglooghost scales back his relentless sound on a new set of EPs.

Clear Tamei
Iglooghost

Brainfeeder

8 August 2018

Steel Mogu
Iglooghost

Brainfeeder

8 August 2018

One of last year's nicest surprises was an album called Neō Wax Bloom, the debut from Brainfeeder signee Iglooghost. It may well be one of the most electronic unrelenting albums ever made, trapping us in a laser war with every zap aimed at our pleasure centers. There were elements of grime and dubstep; its visuals came from the Japanese video games on which the producer born Seamus Malliagh no doubt was weaned during his Irish childhood. But influences disappeared in its novelty and sonic onslaught. Never content to kill time with loops, Neō Wax Bloom felt herculean, the product of obsessive labor in a time when a few flimsy loops and an aesthetic can be the quick ticket to indie fame. All the more impressive given Malliagh was barely out of his teens.

Rumors of an imminent follow-up seemed unbelievable, but less than a year later, here are Clear Tamei and Steel Mogu, two EPs with a neat light-dark dichotomy (the two are more or less interchangeable, with Mogu a little more aggressive). The logical approach after something like Neō Wax Bloom would be to either scale things back or abandon taste at the altar of blinding hubris. But Malliagh wants his cake and his ice cream. On the one hand, there's more space between the sounds, and these tracks often move with the iron clank of Fade to Mind-style post-club or American brostep rather than the gravity-defying speed of Super Smash Bros. characters. On the other hand, Malliagh seems to be drawing from an older tradition of maximalism than what Rustie and Joker might serve up. A lot of these sounds belong to the arena or the opera house, not the arcade.

A guitar that'd make Steve Vai blush screams on "Namā". On two tracks, one on each EP ("New Vectors" from Tamei, "Mei Mode" from Mogu), he deploys a heaven-piercing vocal sample that could only come from a fat lady with a spear and a Valkyrie helmet, such garish uplift does it bring to the music. The tracks often span multiple sections—not just on the eight-minute expanse of "Shrine Hacker", but when the rap on "New Vectors" carries over to "Clear Tamei" as if to let us know the divisions between tracks are meaningless. That rap, by the way, is in a fictional language. If the artist's statement on Bandcamp doesn't mislead, the EPs chronicle the journey of a "young, see-through god in-training named Tamei" in a "hyperspeed, cross-temporal battle". This is the kind of context you expect from the prog of Yes or Magma than an upstart button-pusher.

It's just a shame Malliagh here has gone for broke with his ideas rather than his music. It's a lot more entertaining to be caught in the middle of a hyperspeed, cross-temporal battle than to learn about it through a press release. The impression on these EPs isn't of taste and restraint but of… less. What makes Iglooghost's music so distinctive is the density of his sound, and without it, it's worth wondering what makes him worth listening over his influences. Maybe the wow factor has cooled down a bit, but if these EPs were our introduction to Iglooghost, we might well take him for a bass-music scholar with a Nintendo fetish rather than an unbridled auteur making music like no one else.

"Memorable" isn't really a relevant word with this kind of music; you press play, live through it, come out the other end either exhilarated or exhausted. But one moment nagged at my head: the rap on "Clear Tamei". Malliagh's fictional language is a mishmash of Japanophone sounds interspersed with English, with a typical lyric something like "with the see-through body chema ki sonola". It sounds too much like real language to be mind-bending in the way Liz Fraser's abstractions are, but it's too far from English to have an uncanny-valley effect like, say, the Melvins' grammatical cannonball. It resembles nothing so much as David Bowie speaking Polari on "Girl Loves Me", which didn't work either. At least that cant served the noble cause of helping queer folks communicate under the nose of oppressive discriminatory laws in the 19th and early 20th centuries. This one mostly seems to exist so Malliagh can make up faux-Japanese words.

It's just not good gibberish, and when I think back to the album, it's the first thing to come to mind. I've met at least three people who are turned off by A Love Supreme because of its titular mantra ("a love supreme, a love supreme, a love supreme"). If that's an issue for one of the most revered jazz records ever, it's catastrophic for these stopgap EPs.

6
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.

Music

Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

A Lesson from the Avengers for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.

Music

Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.

Music

Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.

Books

First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?

Reviews

HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.

Music

Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Music

How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.

Music

Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Music

Paul Weller Dazzles with the Psychedelic and Soulful 'On Sunset'

Paul Weller's On Sunset continues his recent streak of experimental yet tuneful masterworks. More than 40 years into his musical career, Weller sounds as fresh and inspired as ever.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.