It’s almost believable that Iglooghost is a 13 year old, as he jokingly claims in interviews - save for the technical prowess exhibited in each one of his tracks. That said, his music does sound like something a 13 year old would make if one could: it’s hyper-digitalized, maximalist sound collaging at its most youthfully frenetic.
He received an initial wave of attention with his first big EP (Chinese Nu Yr) and then his signing to the experimental electronic label Brainfeeder. This renown was tripled with the release last year of Neo Wax Bloom, a debut studio album that took listeners on an intoxicating voyage through the imaginary world of Mamu.
The young producer's tracks flow between senselessly aggressive, pounding maelstroms such as “Xiangjiao” and “Bug Thief” and groovier, more romantic tunes like “Pale Eyes” and “Infinite Mint”. They are linked by tempo and treble: it is a battle to be heard, each soundbite trampling the other and screaming at its highest pitch to stand out.
Formative influences include the Brainfeeder founder himself, beat prodigy Flying Lotus. The sounds of other experimental electronic artists like Rustie and SOPHIE, who are both producers of their own versions of this hyper-active, hyper-digital style of club music can be heard in his music as well. It feels more often though that Iglooghost is not the least bit derivative - that he has in fact carved out an entire new lane for himself. He’s stated that his goal was always to “make something new” and that instead of producing a beat to be rapped over, he wanted to create “full songs” that could stand alone.
What made Neo Wax Bloom exciting was its spinning soundscape: there were bird chirps, doorbells chimes, wind-up toy noises, distorted vocals, and even more, practically an entire language’s worth of postmodern sound splices. Making that album, Iglooghost set out to never repeat a single bar, which is what kept things interesting and gave each track its unique flavor.
And now here come Iglooghost’s newest releases, the dual EPs Clear Tamei and Steel Mogu.
The two discs are stylized as white versus black, with Tamei, a baby training to be the god of Mamu, and Mogu, a rival creature who has come from the future to kill Tamei, representing the light and the dark, respectively. Both sets were billed to have a distinct flavor: Clear Tamei as melancholic, with its seemingly baroque-influenced “lavish string quartets” and “fictional, classical instruments,” and Steel Mogu as uncontrollable, with its “violent, mutating 808s” and “synthetic, trance-influenced synths.”
On Clear Tamei, “New Vectors” and “Clear Tamei” are exceptional. The former presents an intoxicating balance between operatic vocals, melodic chords, and crushing bass; if this is the story of Tamei, then “New Vectors” is its birth: a royal rousing of the spirit with an umbilical cord-cutting drop. “Clear Tamei” is a battle between Tamei and Mogu: it flows from a long, sleepy lead into a moment of awakening when the beat drops like an electronic blitzkrieg, each side firing kicks and strings like lasers. The highlight of the track is the unintelligible female vocals towards the end, distorted to climb higher and higher so it sounds like a vacuum sucking the humanity out with each breath as the tempo spirals further and further out of control.
The sonic aggression on Clear Tamei is just a precursor to the bass-busting energy offered on Steel Mogu, with its highlights “Black Light Ultra” and “Niteracer” proving to be two of the most prodigiously low end intensive Iglooghost tracks to date. “Black Light Ultra” is at once foreboding, opening with a distorted, crunchy laugh and a haze of slow-decaying bass. The soundscape reaches its full intensity with sickly, glassy synths and a time-warped sample from rapper Danny Brown’s “Ain’t It Funny”; the track wraps around his now-alien-tone bars like a cybernetic cocoon, tempo so fast and shuddery it would match the fervor of a Star Wars ship in hyperspace. Both tracks expertly convey the sense of aggression that Mogu is supposed to feel, but “Niteracer” does it especially well – it’s like a car chase soundtrack for the year 3000: wobbly, hostile synths and glitched-out vocal chops striking high-and-low and left-and-right like digital lightning bolts to color the track’s towering bass storm.
But outside these few highlight tracks, both EPs fall apart. “Nama” and “Shrine Hacker” on Clear Tamei and “Steel Mogu” and “Mei Mode” on Steel Mogu call attention to each respective set’s unbearable sonic consistencies: on the former EP, it’s the whines and screeches, and on the latter, it’s the shudders and kicks, that make the tracks fade into an unpleasant din after a while. ("Shrine Hacker" does have a bit of an excellent, electric symphony vibe going, but at nearly 8 minutes it is far too diffuse to enjoy.)
The story with Iglooghost has always been a battle of the highs and lows – treble and bass pushed to their respective extremes, with no real mids – but this time, there’s no deviation from the standard Iglooghost sound library (operatic vocal motifs, glassy vamps, cyclical bird chirps and chimes, wistful hums) to rouse any sense of engagement.
While both five track EPs contain one or two solid additions to the Gloo discography, in bulk they have neither the sonic versatility that Neo Wax Bloom had nor enough of a compelling flow to warrant much replay value.
At least it’s reassuring to know that if he really is 13 years old, there is still plenty of time for growth.
Whereas Neo Wax Bloom was colorful, with each track having a different mood and energy, both Clear Tamei and Steel Mogu feel static, smelling of regression to a black-and-white time.
TOP: "Clear Tamei", "Black Light Ultra", "Niteracer"
BOTTOM: "Nama", "Shrine Hacker", "Steel Mogu"