Credit: Iglooghost
Music by Michael Doub

Best Albums of 2021: Iglooghost | Lei Line Eon

January 8, 2022

#4. Though British producer Iglooghost (aka Seamus Malliagh) operates within some of the more tonally extreme subgenres of 2010s electronic music — UK Bass, glitch, dubstep, and hyperpop among them — the method to Malliagh’s madness is usually even more extreme. Each Iglooghost release to date has been accompanied by a corresponding lore drop from Malliagh, who can be relied upon to describe the complex auxiliary worlds which ensconce (and supposedly motivate) his collages of squelches and oscillations. Per Malliagh, 2015’s Chinese Nu Yr EP was conceived around the platform game-esque narrative of a worm named Xiāngjiāo, while Iglooghost’s debut album, 2017’s Neo Wax Bloom, concerned the ecological troubles of an alternate realm accessed via a portal in his backyard. One might assume that these explainers are simply playful attempts at humor from a hyperactive mind, yet they can offer useful primers for music whose free-form qualities make it otherwise difficult to find a foothold. Another substantive offering of mystical narratives arrived alongside Lei Line Eon, the second Iglooghost album released this April, and — in keeping with Malliagh’s prior symbioses — their fully-realized scope correlates to another musical peak for the Iglooghost project, and more broadly in the landscape of music released in 2021. A step to the left of the more dense, immediate productions on previous Iglooghost works, Lei Line Eon presents a dreamier collection of songs whose topographies are mappable onto both its intended multimedia experience and the inner imaginings of an open-minded audience.

According to Malliagh, Lei Line Eon was created following an 18-month study into the titular “Lei” music: an ancient musical subgenre recorded on disk-like contraptions in rural Ireland. If a curious backstory for Malliagh to put even more effort than usual into maintaining his art’s truth, the feint indirectly informs his artistic progression here, receding from the modern world that inspired his more manic releases and instead incorporating classical music, nature ambient, and negative space into the Iglooghost sound. The evolution is immediately apparent on opener “Eœ (Disk•Initiate),” which scrapes awake with lilting strings that drift into a glitched-out storm at the song’s close, less a dance music drop than an extended thunderclap recorded to tape. Other highlights like “Zones U Can’t See” and “Sylph Fossil” occupy similar intersections between the natural world and electronic music structures, reaching emotive peaks through their pairings of acoustic instrumentation and club banger tactics, and closing out with codas whose laptop birdsong communicates a sense of continuity, ending the songs as if moving between scenes. The level of restraint exercised in moments like these is perhaps unexpected from Malliagh, who emerged via Iglooghost as something of a wunderkind in maximalism, yet his wider dynamic range and compositional strategies on Lei Line Eon are a welcome development, and especially appreciable in the context of a project whose over-the-top character necessitates constant reinvention to retain its awe-inspiring qualities. Where many other 2021 releases seemed content to circle cul-de-sacs of previously charted terrain, Lei Line Eon finds Iglooghost as singularly devoted as ever to the act of album creation as world-building.