English producer Seamus Rawles Malliagh, better known by his stage name Iglooghost, is not an easy artist to define. He defies so many boundaries that attempting to place him into any one category is a treacherous feat. Many can’t even get this hometown right- an embarrassingly high number of publications cite the Dorset-born, London-based producer as “Irish.”
Often tagged “maximalist,” Malliagh describes his own genre as “loud baby music.” In a cryptic inside joke, his fans continuously refer to him as an extremely talented toddler, ageing him anywhere between 4 and 12 (he is 25). He finds himself constantly flirting with such notions of enigma and ephemerality. To that tune, Malliagh’s debut album Neo Wax Bloom brought with it complex lore and bizarrely specific visual descriptors for each track, such as: “imagine that the song is see-through with glowing guts.” While this might read gimmicky to the uninitiated, the sheer commitment and consistency across Iglooghost’s discography, and the artist’s tenacity in stamping down his unique sound and style, is staggering.
This new release, Lei Line Eon, follows a similar pattern. From the opener, it is immediately clear that Malliagh has augmented his idiosyncratic style for this new avenue. The album sounds immediately less frantic and unrelenting than his previous. The aesthetic focus features much more acoustic instrumentation, which lead-track ‘Eœ (Disk•Initiate)’ perfectly encapsulates with its soft piano and violin arpeggios. Credit is due to Vivek Menon and Drew Atz for the violin arrangement and engineering. Their gorgeous cadenzas flourish throughout the album, also especially noticeable in ‘Pure Grey Circle’ and ‘Big Protector.’
Despite flirting with traditional instrumentation, you would be wrong to assume the record to be more accessible than his debut. Released under his own label, Gloo, Malliagh is now established enough and better poised to take more creative risks. With such a complex sound, tracks can arguably come across clumsy and squashed on certain devices (don’t listen to it in a 2009 Toyota Aygo), which doesn’t make for accessible listening. After the first few tracks, the album struggles not to sound too one-dimensional, as if Malliagh found the ideal sound for the LP and stuck to it so religiously that it loses a sense of variety.
Regardless, when it does achieve moments of cohesion, this album hits hard. Free from the confines of genre, Iglooghost borrows and does away with musical elements as he pleases. Whether you like it or not, Malliagh pulls you into a world where only his rules matter, teasing fractions from myriad influences- from early UK dubstep to future bass- into a consummate wall of undulating grooves. At times it even feels like the burgeoning producer is relishing in his technical prowess. Un-Earthly sounds force their way out of tight crevices, free from squirming spaceships, bending, and spluttering with finesse. It might almost seem gratuitous if it were not so intrinsic to the creative vision.
The video for ‘Big Protector’ perfectly shows you why it has to be Iglooghost’s rules and no one else’s. Eerie pastoral imagery and animated graphics gyrate and fissure frantically along with the music, in sublime synthesis. The vocals on the album are understated- from the aggressive lo-fi whispering of ‘Sylph Fossil,’ akin to FKA Twigs‘ earliest works, to the more conventional vocals from LOLA, who provides one of the few human-sounding glimpses on the record. With vocals left quite low in the mix, it is a losing battle trying to hang on to phrases, but lines such as, “slipping through the dust like a mite,” echo the album’s sense of restless claustrophobia, its fear of stasis. Frequent collaborator Babii’s sugar-sweet vocals, as always, are in perfect marriage with the Iglooghost multiverse and offer some respite from synthesised austerity.
The closing two tracks, ‘Soil Bolt’ and ‘Yellow Umbra’ are satisfyingly convincing in punctuating the record. The overpowering sound design finally proves as necessary to the composition as the sweeping melodies. An ever-fascinating feature of Iglooghost’s work is how, despite his simple melodies, his maximalist composition style and avoidance of looping offer no respite from the contextual complexity. For an artist who is equally as involved in his production as in his animation, video editing, and graphic design, it is impressive for any creative working independently to put so much into just one project. Not one of these elements can or should be taken as an island. Though not an easy first listen, the album disarms you over time and unfurls like a seldom-tamed beast whose trust is yours to earn. A strong addition to Iglooghost’s discography, this will undoubtedly reveal further echelons of beauty as the mountain of effort is peeled back layer by layer.
Words by Samm Anga
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