The tolling bell that marks the start of “Borgmog’s Clock”—the first track of Imbogodom’s sophomore full-length, And They Turned Not When They Went—belongs to none other than London’s Big Ben. Sonically and geographically, that’s the only solid touchstone the album allows itself. From there, long-distance collaborators Alexander Tucker (England) and Daniel Beban (New Zealand) wander and decay, letting their field recordings, tape manipulations, chamber studies, and ghostly folk dirges grind against each other with all the majesty of continental drift.
But that tension is matched by dreamy detachment. The guttural drone “Etchum Buoy” smudges the line between foghorn and throat-singer; “Red Brick Roundhouse” churns cello and analog pulses into a froth of dissonance. On the more abstract passages, such as “The Passing Presence” and “Nuclear Wind,” echoes are left to fester in a soup of cosmically sourced ambience. But it isn’t all a wash of murk and monochrome; “Rubbings” captures the bittersweet friction between elegantly looped piano and the magnetic drag of memory.
As hypnotic as the instrumentals are, And They Turned bewitches best when Tucker and Beban raise their voices. Folding fey tenor into Gregorian groan, the two harmonize hauntingly on “Heir Looms”—a semi-acoustic, Scott Walker-meets-Dead Can Dance threnody that’s also the closest thing to a pop tune the album cares to muster. But the duo knows how to wring the most out of a minimum of melody and structure; by the time the austerity-measure goth-folk of “Pillars Of Ash” closes the disc, the cumulative horror and wonder of the preceding songs break like a wave. In lesser hands, such experiments can be hollow, lazy messes; here, though, Imbogodom’s ear for corroded beauty only makes And They Turned that much stranger and stronger.