Album Reviews

Imbogodom – And They Turned Not When They Left

(Thrill Jockey) UK release date: 23 January 2012

Alexander Tucker and Daniel Beban, collectively known as Imbogodom, impressed greatly with their debut album The Metallic Year. Shaped largely by Beban’s time with the BBC as a radio engineer, their fascination with found sounds and tape manipulation produced an album steeped in an occasionally disconcerting ambience.

And They Turned… not only finds the pair returning to the home of the World Service – the BBC’s Bush House – to piece together their tape loops, ambient noise and improvisation, but this time they’ve branched out somewhat to record at various historical locations, such as an old lighthouse, and used live feeds from the Houses Of Parliament. This utilisation of historical locations is integral to the album. It is an exploration into time, place and emotion made all the more convincing by the locations from which Tucker and Beban acquire their material, and all the more elastic in their scope by their imaginations. This is music formed almost exclusively by its environment and passed through the prism of Tucker and Beban’s collective consciousness. However, rather than shattering into a stunning spectrum, this album splinters into an array of slate grey light.

One look at the track listing suggests that Tucker and Beban viewed the landscapes, buildings and people that inspired their compositions and decided to destroy them one by one whilst committing their memory to tape. Titles such as Heir Looms suggest the presence of death, while the likes of I Am Here, I Am Gone or The Passing Presence hint at the fleeting nature of life itself. Pillars Of Ash and Nuclear Wind meanwhile are far more straight to the point in name alone.

Musically, the album is far more beautiful and sedate than might be expected, but omens of bad fortune always seem to be lurking in the shadows. Boromog’s Clock opens the album with the ominous chime of Big Ben and the whirring of clocks. The overall effect is dizzying and chaotic with the passing of time being slowed to a gentle ebb and rushing past in the blink of an eye simultaneously. Etchum Bouy is a short piece that either sounds like the most horrifying fog horn ever invented, or an ogre cleaning its throat. This leads into Window Faces, which appears to be a hectic improvisation populated with random percussion, flicks of a lighter and slowed down, congested vocals. It’s a mess, but not entirely dissimilar to Trout Mask Replica era Captain Beefheart, and it’s a thoroughly disorientating experience.

Welcome Away begins life as a seemingly good natured phone call before being twisted into an unpleasant experience by the introduction of roaring nuclear winds, electronic blips. It eventually develops into and appropriately haunting ghostly thrum. The echoing chimes of a music box pitched against the sound of rasping metal found on The Passing Presence ramp up the tension considerably. It’s a song that could quite easily have been pinched from the soundtrack of a grainy black and white horror movie although there are elements of Lalo Schifrin’s flair (specifically, Scorpio’s Theme) to be found too.

Away from the ambient rumblings, Imbogodom do occasionally stray into more conventional territory. Slate Grey Light is a folk tinged drone that finds the pair’s vocals turned upon themselves, eventually collapsing into each other and disappearing under a wave of mechanical turbulence. Heir Looms meanwhile is a more straightforward affair, with a discernable melody (not too far away from The Flaming Lips’ Do You Realize?), gently plucked strings and a beautiful but mournful piano motif.

And They Turned… is at times confusing, frightening, and strangely beautiful. It is not an album that is easily understood or even particularly easy to like, but the sheer scope and craftsmanship on offer make it worthy of investigation.

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More on Imbogodom
Imbogodom – And They Turned Not When They Left
Imbogodom – The Metallic Year