When Wire frontman Colin Newman and Minimal Compact frontwoman Malka Spigel founded their swim~ record label, they created various monikers for their side-projects to help bolster their roster. One such guise was Immersion, an excuse for the husband and wife team to anonymously create synthesizer-based instrumental mood music.
At first they took the ‘anonymous’ tag seriously. For their debut album Oscillating, they didn’t even list their names inside the sleeve and press material stated that the band was from Germany. By the time Newman recorded his (so far) last solo record, the heavily Immersion-inspired Bastard, however, the cat was out of the bag. From then on Newman and Spigel curated a remix album and released another full-length album under the Immersion name, the heavy-handed, sprawling Low Impact.
That was in 1999, and that was just about it for Immersion. Wire has reunited twice since then, Malka Spigel’s solo career has hit the ground running after founding swim~, and both have kept themselves busy with the synth-punk supergroup Githead. But the Immersion name wasn’t going to go away just because Newman and Spigel didn’t really “need” it anymore. In a 2012 interview, Newman told me that Low Impact was one of the finest things that he and his wife had done together, so it seemed inevitable that they would revisit those days of pulseless ambient music sooner or later.
Immersion’s 2016 return is a small one, though. Analogue Creatures is a very short ten-inch EP with five songs clocking in at under 22-minutes. Even with that knowledge in mind, Analogue Creatures still feels like it’s wrapping up just as it was getting started. But if Wire’s Read & Burn EPs have taught us anything, it’s that a little taste is better than nothing at all.
Besides, Immersion’s modes of operation have changed ever-so-slightly since dusting off the name. For one thing, Analogue Creatures features guitars. Granted, they’re not a prominent part of the mix and they’re processed in a way that doesn’t make them sound like guitars, but the fact that they’re present at all lets us know that Immersion is still evolving. Analogue Creatures also features outside help from musician Guy Schneerson, who plays an analogue synthesizer on the leaked track “Organic Cities”. Another title, “Shapeshifters”, is one that Spigel finds appropriate: “‘Shapeshifters’ is a title that fits us well,” he says, “We always do something different.”
Newman and Spigel now live in Brighton, less than ten minutes from the seaside. The couple admits that the water’s ebb and flow had an influence in shaping the sound on Analogue Creatures. While land form changes happen very slowly, they still happen. Just as the sea line will appear to be different in the evening from what it was in the morning, an Immersion track will undergo its own subtle changes as it plays. Likewise, Newman and Spigel’s changes to the Immersion formula are only slightly noticeable. You could say they are picking up where they left off, albeit in a protracted form.
It also helps that their style of “ambient” is unique, standing apart from glitch, isolationism, and Moby string pads. Often built on one chord, an Immersion track can be propelled by the slightest rhythmic feeling. “Organic Cities” gives us a glimpse of their near-cinematic sense of build-up only to hide the climax from us. Analogue swells are the sole guide for “Mechanical Creatures”, Analogue Creatures‘s longest and most anchorless track. “Slow Light” ends the EP roughly the way “Always the Sea” started it—with billowing chords and a twinkling periphery.
Analogue Creatures may be one small step for Immersion as well as the electronic music world at large, but it’s a step nevertheless. It demonstrates that Newman and Spigel are still an active instrumental team that doesn’t rule out what’s come before.
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