Immersion – Sleepless

Electronic ambient-dance duo Immersion are made up of Colin Newman, of Wire fame, and his partner Malka Spigel, of Minimal Compact. Following on from their previous album, Analogue Creatures Living On an Island, this is a similar series of instrumental workouts that ride along waves of enticingly percolating grooves and waves of mostly chilled out and immaculate textures.

The influences of Neu!, Kraftwerk and all sorts of German electronica pioneers are once again paramount, along with splashes of pulsing Underworld and 90s ambient techno flourishes. There’s also post-clubbing vibes culled from the duo’s deep love and appreciation of all things exotica, without straying too far into avant-garde and experimental waters, and keeping things tight time-wise.

On the surface, Sleepless sounds like an electronica album, but with studio guests that include Holy Fuck’s Matt Schultz, and EBM band members Gil Luz and Asi Weitz, there is a subtle live feel that permeates throughout. Drums, bass and guitar combine with analogue synths to fashion a largely gentle foray into the waters of ambient-dance, that veer from the warm and optimistic to darker, more foreboding terrain. At its heart is an appreciation of melody.

‘Microclimate’ is underpinned by warm synth textures and gentle stabs, while ‘Off Grid’ utilises an Underworld-esque flickering synth, a rhythmic four-string tenor guitar, and snaking melodic bassline courtesy of Spigel. The more contemporary and upbeat dance-rock fusion of Public Service Broadcasting – with its bass-heavy, and steady drum beat groove – informs ’Hovertron’. Meanwhile, ’MS19′ is tranced up Kraftwerkian old school but a little darker, with metronomic drums pads and waves of shimmering synths floating off into the ether, that leads into the title track, which surprises with its manipulated brass touches, and Eastern melody.

Matt Schultz provides the flowing motorik drive (a la Stereolab-meets-Kraftwerk via the byways of Hookworms) for the aptly named ‘Propulsoid’, with simple and gentle guitar lines, and a pitch-shifting synth propelling it along. Things get a little more trippy with ‘The Humming Sea’, a gently intoxicating mood piece dominated by swirling synths and effects, while ‘Manic Toys’ is dominated by scuttling percussion, an excited sounding handbell of sorts, deep synth-bass, and techno scratches. While ’Seeing Is Believing’ again features that classic ‘Rez’-style burbling synth but within an altogether darker, multiple drone-laden atmosphere.

The ten instrumental pieces that make up Sleepless are steeped in both mystery and calm, and thanks to the emphasis on melody, is highly accessible as a listening experience. As the title, and blurred cover cityscape shot suggests, it is a trip into the nether regions of the night, perhaps after a clubbing session, or when insomnia takes over; the gliding, if vaguely otherworldly, sounds creating a lush and widescreen soundscape that is subtle yet detailed. Sleepless could, in the best possible way, relax, and prepare you for that sleep that you ultimately need.

Jeff Hemmings