Album Review: Iglooghost – Lei Line Eon

[Gloo; 2021]

“No no limits, we’ll reach for the sky / No valley too deep, no mountain too high” Dutch dance act 2 Unlimited once proclaimed. Almost three decades later, this has become a stone cold reality. Technology has come so far that – with enough time and experience on your hands – you could actually transmute an exact replica of this 90s evergreen out of some elbow fart. Judging from his hilarious interviews, the sheer absurdity of this notion probably isn’t lost on Dorset-based electronic producer Iglooghost.

With all the advanced musical tools ripe for the pickings, and with the pandemic persisting, the conditions seem just about right to explore the sheer headfuck of today’s aural possibilities. Executing musical shitpostings like the one above with a heedless why the fuck not kind of dementia – merely for the sake of a short-term dopamine rush – seems like both a feasible and cathartic course of action right about now. Iglooghost’s earlier material, along with his high-wired 2017 debut LP Neō Wax Bloom, definitely appeared to rage on this inclination.

Iglooghost’s new album Lei Line Eon leans less on pure sonic anarchy, and more on a focussed, metaphysical concept. On his Bandcamp page, he mentions ley lines, which – to put it in layman’s terms – is an alternate theory on intelligent design through landscaping, a means of navigation for either prehistoric or extraterrestrial entities. With the clear and present danger of this review turning into one big galaxy brain-sized upsurge, let’s just say there’s something equally cathartic about thinking outside of scientific conventions, to explore our direct surroundings through the lens of Paganism, myth or the occult. In pop culture, the extrasensory, multi-dimensional experience is no less ubiquitous: in Jack Kirby’s artwork for Doctor Strange, Chihiro Ogino’s animated film Spirited Away or Terry Carr’s sci-fi novel They Live On Levels.

This train of thought also appeared to have triggered Iglooghost, who explored his own homeground on, well, different levels. He narrowed his scope down to the local phenomenon of ‘Lei Music’, which is a unique type of ‘chiming’ music carried by special sound carriers called Lei Disks. Again, to refrain from too much esoteria, these Lei Disks are rare collector’s items, and it’s easy to see why. They look fucking neat. Lei Disks are like enchanted objects of sound, and Iglooghost avidly researched them, much like one would research archeological relics.

Like a modern renaissance man, Iglooghost tinkered and repurposed these Lei Disks within his own quirky musical vernacular, applying their meditative, delicate sounds as an anchor. Or at least, a more grounded element opposite to his offbeat pop transmutations. The marriage of these seemingly clashing elements gives Lei Lin Eon an otherworldly, transient quality. Opener “Eœ (Disk•Initiate)” is very distinct from the spastic forays of earlier Iglooghost, unfurling from its playful wind-up into a full-on orchestrated reverie. But where a lot of neoclassical music has a propensity for unblemished beauty, Iglooghost is keen to always keep some kind of discordant element in the mix, placing Vivek Menon’s string arrangements in a microclimate of pixelated noise, mimicking rustling vegetation and insects.

Some of the juxtapositions Iglooghost creates on Lei Lin Eon are quite harsh, but seem more explorative in their nature than result-driven. “Pure Grey Circle” and “Sylph Fossil” stumble out of their constraints like some gaudy Frankenstein monster composed of a basement hip-hop banger and the latest Steve Reich-adjacent minimalist on Erased Tapes. It feels kind of crude and mad scientist-y in the way some elements are mashed together, but ultimately, it strikes me as holistic and playful, all done with the intent of feeling or discovering something completely new. “Light Gutter” and “Big Protector” definitely sound more measured and tranquil, using the Lei Music sonics to summon more cavernous, exotic and dark tones. The latter track appears to be somewhat at odds with its own undeniably pretty backdrop, unraveling like someone deciding to continue doodling outside of the paper and on top of the surface below.

“UI Birth”, featuring BABii’s fractured ghost-in-the-machine vocals, is another eerie unsettling marriage between harsh, distorted beats and elegant strings fighting for space on the same radiowave. “Zones U Can’t See” also unites two extremes, mashing abrasive, industrial elements with shouty child vocals. It all sort of aligns with the idea of ley lines, which was considered a crackpot theory that reconfigured conventions of both math and spirituality. For some of it to be debunked, someone had to step out and explore its merits, and that inquisitiveness has in turn generated new rifts of knowledge of us as a species.

On Lei Line Eon, Iglooghost sonically self-sabotages as much as he creates, and no matter how gorgeous or warped the music gets, it exudes the energy of a kid playing with their action figures within an imaginary backdrop. Iglooghost surveys beyond the sensory, straining to activate neurons in unexplored areas of the brain. As a result, elements that shouldn’t work somehow end up sounding cohesive, vibrant and new.

Iglooghost’s offbeat attempts to shock both himself and his listeners out of the habitual have to be admired. Recently, Aphex Twin sold an audiovisual art piece as an NFT, a face in the visual sound spectrum that wildly unsettled me back when I was a teenager. You’d figure that sooner or later, everything ends up under a gavel to be commodified, stripping it of its mystery and potential. Listening to an album like Lei Line Eon awakens a necessary solace, the awe that the unexplored territory will take more than our collective lifetimes to fully ascertain.