Inspired by the minimal techno explosion of the early 90s, Immersion debuted in ’94 with Oscillations.
The duo, made up of Wire’s Colin Newman and Minimal Compact’s Malka Spigel went on to make another two albums under the Immersion moniker before taking an almost two-decade hiatus.
Inspired by an impromptu synth purchase towards the end of Wire’s last tour, the duo has returned with the five-song mini-album Analogue Creatures.
“Always the Sea” opens the album with an intense build sounding like an ambient outtake from Pink Floyd’s The Wall before fading into “Shapeshifters,” which features a similar sonic palette but adds the only drums on the album–soft, pulsing tablas and tinkling cymbals, mixed quiet, slowly propelling the drone.
With warm synth arpeggios, dark textures and vaguely ethnic, echoing acoustic guitars, “Organic Cities” could easily be the background music for a dramatic re-enactment of the History Channels Ancient Aliens, while “Mechanical Creatures” is six minutes of what sounds like a spaceship hovering over a still ocean.
While the relatively short track lengths offer pleasant snippets of ambience, the songs rarely have time to develop from a simple soundscape into a journey, as much of the best ambient music does. Instead, the tracks build on fuzzy synthetic loops before fading away a few minutes later rather than evolving.
Because of the looping nature, there are few dynamic breaks. Once a song shows its various layers, they usually persist until the inevitable fade.
While the elements themselves are minimal in nature, the additive process of loop-layering feels a little heavy handed if not organic – as if each track was built on the spot with little thought given to composition or direction. While this can be refreshing, it leaves most of the tracks feeling static and stuck in the moment.
The exception here is the album closer “Slow Light,” a dark drone that taps into the most engaging side of ambience. Warm and fuzzy, the organ-effected guitar gives it a tense and spiritual vibe, almost ritualistic in its repetitions while the simple, three-note bassline gives it just enough structure to make it absorbing.
This is refreshing, as the bass on the other four songs often carries the drones, but with its slow, monotone pulses, there is little to propel the tracks forward.
Because of this, Analogue Creatures seems to feel content to float in a focused, harmonious haze then to take any big steps towards a destination.
This isn’t exactly a bad thing, but the serenity makes even its darkest moments feel peaceful, leading to an album that is a little one-sided, though, at five songs and 21 minutes, this isn’t a major drawback.
What is surprising is that, though not disjointed, the album feels like five separate snippets rather than one long piece, which can be good or bad depending on your outlook.
Besides “Slow Light,” the best thing Analogue Creatures has to offer is its short run time. While much of ambient/drone music tends to overstay its welcome/our interest, Immersions latest endeavor offers a pleasant stroll through ambient soundscapes without taking much of your day.
While it would be nice to hear some of these tracks evolve through different dynamics and atmospheres, the improvisational looping method in which it was recorded would not be beneficial to a more expansive exploration of sound, making the concise edits a wise choice.
While not overly engaging, experimental or adventurous, Analogue Creatures is a nice, relaxing stream of interesting synth-scapes and slow drones that smoothly transition from organic to mechanical, and at just over 20 minutes, it’s short enough to encourage a quick play through when you need to relax.