On the heels of Skyscraper’s relaunch, we’ve been reviewing a number of records from mid-to-late 2010 that we missed out on covering during our semi-hiatus. Sort of a “what we missed” series of reviews, emphasizing both some of the best releases of 2010 and some of the year’s most interesting but overlooked records. This is one of those.
The Metallic Year opens with a low, reverberant hum, the din of distant traffic or unseen machinery. It lasts less than a minute, but in that short time it manages to set the tone for the tracks that follow, suggesting both circulation and secrecy, the muted roar of things working away in the dark.
Imobogodom consists of Daniel Beban and Alexander Tucker, who teamed up when Beban was working the graveyard shift as a radio engineer for the BBC. Accordingly, there’s something of the dispassionately technical and spectral about the pair’s debut record. Working with the reel-to-reel tape recorders and other quickly obsolescing desiderata stored in the Beeb’s laboratories, Beban and Tucker use splices, loops, and a few precise instrumental effects to make sound into an object as well as an atmosphere, a shifting sculpture and a textured, rumbling collage. There are a few nods to conventional notions of harmony: the second track, “Unseen Ticket,” features a rolling piano riff interspersed with what sounds like a plucked banjo and a rhythmic electronic whistle. A background drone gradually builds in timbre, until something like a tidal crescendo is reached. Here, with a fusion of sparse, rustic instrumentation and synthesized rustle, Imbogodom summon an aura of idiosyncratic mystery similar to later work from Climax Golden Twins.
Elsewhere, the duo delves into more disembodied territory, using augmented chants and long stretches of monolithic drone to achieve a primitive, aboriginal vibe in the way of Brian Eno and David Byrne’s experimental stuff. The middle of the record more or less focuses on this sort of extended ambient dirge, and impatient or unadventurous listeners may begin to yearn for more visceral pastures. The Metallic Year doesn’t develop so much as drift, with only brief spotlights of piano or string harmonics illuminating the cloudy twilight. “Indosoap,” with its bubbling chimes and melancholy, clanging tones, suggests a promising tangent, echoing the radio-soundtrack work of John Baker, another BBC employee who pieced together tape in order to fashion a weird cornucopia of electronic sounds. Unfortunately, it quickly segues into what should be the album’s centerpiece, “Bvsh Hovse Ghost,” named after the building in which Beban worked as a world service radio engineer, and in which he and Tucker composed. The song’s reverberating moans and sparse clatter are appropriately supernatural, yet it ultimately fails to ignite: listening to it is like watching someone assiduously kindle sparks for six minutes without ever starting a fire. The following track , “Report From Iron Mountain,” kicks off like an alternate version of “Aumgn,” the ambient jam on Can’s Tago Mago (United Artists, 1971) that most people I know usually skip over. From there, it uses that least satisfactory of avant-garde tricks, found vocal clips, with the usual stultifying results.
Despite such inescapable (and, in work like this, somewhat obligatory) longeurs, Imbogodom usually manage to get beyond their heady concepts and intricate process to fashion a collection of nuanced, interstitial music that, if taken on its own terms, is as intriguing to listen to as it must have been to create. Which, when it comes to material as cerebral as The Metallic Year, is high praise indeed.
[The Metallic Year is released on LP only in an edition of 1,000 copies, currently still available from Thrill Jockey.]Visit: Alexander Tucker | Thrill Jockey
Purchase: Insound | eMusic