Iuengliss. The name is damn near impossible to pronounce. Tom Metz, the up-and-coming electronic wunderkind who performs under the moniker, knows his handle causes fits. So there are no hard feelings if you butcher it.
"It doesn't matter how you pronounce it," he says. "I pronounce it I-win-gliss. I put it together in high school at some point, and I can't remember how. I just like the words. I think I was just screwing around with letters and I liked the way it sounded. But it doesn't really have a meaning. I guess it just represents the songs. Most people can't remember it or pronounce it, though. I think about changing it, but it's kind of too personal for me."
It was a few years before he put together his mouthful of a name that Metz started putting together his intricate digital compositions after an exposure to electronic auteur Richard D. James, aka Aphex Twin, turned him on to the style.
Iuengliss CD-release show, with Josephine and the Mouse People, BDRMPPL and DJ Tyler Snow, 8 p.m. Friday, April 17, hi-dive, 7 South Broadway, $8, 720-570-4500.
"I started when I was thirteen," he recalls. "Me and a buddy just decided to start sequencing music on our own. We both got into Aphex Twin a whole bunch in junior high. That's kind of how I got started with it. It was when Come to Daddy came out. I remember seeing the "Come to Daddy" video, and I was super-pumped. I got the CD and I showed my buddy, and we just collected everything, anything we could get our hands on from him.
"I kind of liked techno, but I didn't really know where to get good electronic music," Metz continues. "Then I saw that video, and it was so wild. I was like, 'Man, I've got to check that out.' That album is so diverse — that album alone introduced me to so many different styles of music. It has eight songs or whatever, but every song is so different, they could all be albums on their own."
More than a decade later, Metz's adolescent electronic noodling has matured into the stately, gorgeous sounds and songs of Iuengliss. Talking to Metz, a slight, gangly guy with long hair and wire-rimmed glasses perched on an earnest face, it's easy to imagine the wide-eyed, youthful excitement he must have felt upon discovering the world of electronic music — a world that he's since made his own. Along the way, his interest took a brief dip into the rave scene, but he found that the mainstream of electronic dance music never quite matched up with his own, somewhat more esoteric tastes in the genre.
"In high school, I maybe went to five or six raves, with my dad not knowing about it and getting busted a lot for going," he says. "I wasn't doing it for the drugs; I was going to dance. But I kind of stopped. Really, the raves I want to go to are all in Europe. I never get to do that."
After moving to Denver for college, he eventually met up with former Astrophagus drummer Dave Kurtz while both were working for the now-defunct ManiaTV!. The two realized they shared similar tastes in music, and Iuengliss soon had its first real shows booked, opening for Astrophagus. But unlike many of his fellow bedroom producers, Metz had gotten a taste of the performance bug long before he made it onto a "real" stage.
"I played in junior high, little house parties and stuff," he explains. "We played at school, in junior high, me and my buddy Joel. We played in the courtyard or we'd play at the band events. Our teacher knew we made electronic music, so he was like, 'You guys can play after one of the concerts in front of everybody.' So we were like, 'Sweet!' We got this little slot where we got to do one song each in front of the whole school, all the families and stuff. It was funny, because it was all weird electronic music."
These days, playing live is becoming more and more a part of the Iuengliss repertoire. Whenever possible, Metz works with his friend Adam Singer, a digital artist who provides visual accompaniment in an effort to mitigate the inherent limitations of performing behind a machine. "I like it with the visuals better, because I think it's kind of boring to watch a dude and a laptop sometimes," Metz acknowledges. "The visuals are kind of fun because it makes it more fun to look at. I don't like the bright lights just glaring on me. Singer's style is perfect for the music, I think. He's got a trippy style. It works really well."
His list of all-time favorites and acknowledged influences reads something like a who's-who of the IDM scene: He cites Autechre, Aphex Twin and the entire Warp Records roster as his main sources of inspiration. What sets Metz apart from most of his influences, however — and gives his music a unique character — is his reliance on his own voice, frequently as the centerpiece of his songs.
"I've always just sung," he says. "I love singing, singing along to music. I think it adds something to the music. It makes it more personal to me to have my voice on it. I'm not always into music with vocals, but I think it works for some of these new songs — and I just like to do it; it just feels like what I should do."
Iuengliss's first album, Wake-Up Time, had a drifting, dream-like quality and an expansive, oceanic, blissful sound that bordered on ambient at times. In contrast, the new album, Motion in Mind, is a much more energetic affair, with snappier rhythms and bigger songs that are almost epic in scope. "Since I've been playing live, I want to get things moving a little bit," Metz declares. "The new one is a lot more moving like that, a lot more powerful. The beats slam harder. The last one is a lot more quiet songs that aren't meant to blast the stereo. I wanted to feel vibrations this time. The last one is more just wanting to create a textural soundscape. I really tried to focus more on textures on that one, and the new one is more like rhythm and movement. They still have the same kind of positive feeling, I think."
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Besides those two albums and an instrumental EP called Sammy's Wildest Dreams, Metz is working on a new batch of songs and says he has about five more albums' worth of Iuengliss material recorded that he may release at some point, not to mention a lot of shorter, experimental pieces based around extreme manipulations of his voice.
And all of that is in addition to another collaboration he's working on with former Jimi Austin drummer Shane Zweygardt called the Yawn Tron project, a harder-edged excursion into drill-and-bass territory, and one with Aenka, a drifting, shifting track for the recent Bocumast label compilation. As if that weren't enough, Metz also recorded an instrumental hip-hop album under his own name that's gotten some local radio play.
"Somebody at Radio 1190 picked it up and started playing it, so that was pretty cool," he enthuses. "It was a hip-hop album I was going to do with a friend in high school, but he never ended up writing lyrics for it, like rhymes, so I just ended up putting out the beats. It's kind of glitchy and cool."