Review: Iglooghost – Neō Wax Bloom

Neō Wax Bloom is the first proper full-length album from Iglooghost, an electronic music producer who’s been an up-and-coming fixture in the genre thanks to a handful of EPs and being signed to Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label. I’ll admit that this is more or less my first proper sampling of the producer’s music, having been intrigued by a music video that premiered on the Toonami programming block a couple of weeks ago. So I eagerly awaited the advertised date when the album would be made available for all, and I have to say that I was very impressed with this effort.

It’s hard to put a precise pin on Iglooghost’s style since they pull in a wide variety of influences, from IDM to footwork to ambient to glitch. When hitting play on the first couple of tracks, you’re greeted by an incredibly lush set of melodies, fairy tale-like “la-la-la’s”, and other synthesized textures all come together to create a sort of electronic fantasy vibe almost akin to classic Super Nintendo JRPGs like Chrono Trigger or Secret of Mana. Many of the tracks contain a lot of very pretty and gorgeous melodies of this type, perhaps most explicitly in the track “Solar Blade”, but the songs also have a very fast and hectic nature to many of them. Weaved in and out of these gorgeous soundscapes are skittering spastic drum patterns complimented with pitched auxiliary percussion elements and glitched-out vocals. This motif is pretty consistent across the album, and it remains really engaging across the entire release and never feels stale.

The percussive elements of the album in particular are a real standout on this album, with one of the best highlights being “Zen Champ.” The introductory xylophone has a rather rapid melodic progression, carving out a dizzying rhythm that compliments the footwork-style drum beat at play. These xylophones also pop up during the back-half of the song to help bring things full circle, all the while giving the listener a healthy dose of synth bursts and even some shreddy electric guitar melodies buried in the mix. This isn’t the only song that features unexpected guitar elements, as “Bug Thief” also manages to work in a sweet tapping guitar (or maybe tapping bass) melody in the outro that would feel at home on Oneohtrix Point Never’s Garden of Delete, adding an extra layer to the electronic fantasy vibe.

Perhaps the biggest strength of Neō Wax Bloom is the songwriting: specifically, how it manages to balance incredibly dense compositions with a ridiculous level of memorability. As previously mentioned, the songs on this album are absolutely packed from front to back. The compositions on this release are dense beyond belief with dynamic synths, diverse percussive elements, and other elements. But even with the saturation of elements making their way throughout the album, every song manages to remain catchy with strong hooks that keep the songs from bleeding into one another. The key to this is that every song manages to have its own unique standout moments that punctuate the tracks at just the right moment. As previously mentioned, a couple of songs manage to incorporate subtle guitar work that works really well to compliment/contrast the synthetic nature of the album, and they are some of the best on the record. Another highlight on the album, “Super Ink Burst”, utilizes some offbeat jazz saxophone runs that works well with the clattering free-form beat of the song and provides a nice feeling that’s contrasted by the clapping rhythms and nature sounds of the back half of the song. “Purity Shards” serves as a nice track that emphasizes the bells and auxiliary percussion that once again evokes a Secret of Mana vibe while also serving as a good interlude that resets the pacing of the album before getting into the 2nd half of the tracks.

“Infinite Mint” and “God Grid” stand out as the most gorgeous tracks on the album and represent Iglooghost at arguably his strongest on record. The opening of the former drifts between sparse vocal passages and these swelling bursts of synthesizers, a trend that works its way through the track even when the rest of the track kicks in. While not the most packed song on the record, it still retains that compositional density and is written in a way that allows for some absolutely beautiful production and lush dreamlike electronic tones to wash over you, and there’s even some great arpeggios near the end thanks to those xylophones. “God Grid”, the album closer, feels like a proper culmination of the entire experience, emphasizing the vocal aspects of the album with swelling choir vocals dipping in and out of the mix, contrasted against chopped-up spoken word bits. The percussion section is naturally frenzied with bell/xylophone melodies working off of the clapping sounds and reverb-heavy kick drums, and the closing seconds with well-timed blaring synths and vocals helps round everything out with typical gorgeous flair.

After giving this album a few listens, I’m almost kicking myself for having not jumped on the Iglooghost train earlier. I just don’t have anything negative to say about this record as it’s one of the best produced and best written albums I’ve heard in a while. Maintaining a delicate balance of sticky hooks, spastic drum beats/percussive melodies, dynamic and beautiful synth melodies, and complex vocal elements, Neō Wax Bloom is an absolute stunner and very well may be one of the best, if not possibly *the* best, electronic records of the year.

Final verdict: Buy it. Allow yourself to be sucked away into Iglooghost’s magnificent fantasy/future soundscapes.

Neō Wax Bloom is available from Brainfeeder on CD, vinyl, digital download (iTunes, Bandcamp, etc.), and streaming services. Check out Iglooghost online on Facebook, Twitter, and Bandcamp

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