Album Reviews

Imbogodom – The Metallic Year

(Thrill Jockey) UK release date: 16 August 2010

It might seem odd to call an album as austere and unsettling as this one a nostalgia project, but The Metallic Year was partly born of a hankering to revive the obsolete art of tape-loop editing.� Imbogodom began when Kiwi radio engineer Daniel Beban discovered the old reel-to-reel machines at the BBC’s Bush House.� He then spent his night shifts with Brit Alexander Tucker conjuring sonic ghosts from the machines, inspired by 1960s experimenters such as Terry Riley and Steve Reich, as well as the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.� The result of these sessions is an album that should certainly not be played in daylight.� Not only was it made in the wee small hours; its lunar, lunatic atmospheres are the soundtrack to a bad dream.

After an introductory minute of ominous tape-storm turbulence (The Metallic Year Pt. 1) comes Unseen Ticket, whose building piano chords recall both DJ Shadow and Brian Eno‘s Apollo�album, while rougher and rawer than either.� By comparison with the compressed, cushioned warmth of most electronic and ambient music we encounter in the digital era, Imbogodom’s self-imposed constraints produce a sound that is sparse, brittle and – as the title suggests – metallic.� With repeated listens, though, it starts to insinuate its way into the subconscious.� Of The Cloth and Bvsh Hovse Ghost are built on varispeeded vocal drones, sometimes slowed down to sound like huge ancient horns, intoning unintelligible words behind oscillating waves of sound.�The Endless Body is a downward spiral of warping pianos.

Imbogodom also use a similar instrumental vocabulary to early tape-loop experiments like The Beatles’ Tomorrow Never Knows.� Once edited and chopped-up, the instruments are not always easy to identify, but discernible on the likes of Indosoap and Report From Iron Mountain are chimes, gongs, tabla, singing wineglasses, backwards cymbals; the latter also includes a crackly voice coming in and out like a lost radio transmission. �Much of this music feels darkly devotional, the nightmarish cousin of New Age. �Whether playing guitars, cellos or percussion, Tucker and Beban work by teasing out harmonic overtones that then bounce ethereally off each other and around the brain of the listener.� There are no jagged structures here: each track swells gradually to a peak and then ebbs away.

Calibos, with its reeds, brass and tympani, strays closer in feel to avant-garde jazz.� Once its last boom has died away we are back in the storm for The Metallic Year Pt. 2, joined this time by chanting voices.� And then the dream is over: its short running time (at under 34 minutes) adds to the feeling of evanescence.

This is cinematic, nocturnal music which will appeal to audiophiles and anyone who has found themselves staring into space and listening to early Sigur R�s at 3 in the morning. �Besides the portentous atmospheres it evokes, on a purely technical level Imbogodom’s old-school efforts are to be applauded – especially given how easy it is nowadays to fake an analog, tape-loop sound with software plug-ins.� There’s an impressive perverseness to their going the long way round, a process which must have involved as much fortuitous accident as design.� In fact, knowing how this album came to be significantly enhances it.� Without the context this would be an intriguing but rather slight piece of work: ghostly, almost not there at all.

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