The best ambient artists are also the best at vanishing acts. Cluster and Tangerine Dream hang above us as distant constellations, because even now their music obscures any human essence with horizons vast and lush. Such was the point of Immersion in the Nineties – disappear behind the name, and engulf club-goers with the landscapes left behind on the albums. What were once Colin Newman of Wire and Malka Spigel of Minimal Compact are now, for the sake of this review anyway, one drifting mass. And drifting masses do not progress in the same manner as ordinary bands – so long as they continue to drift, all is well. Still, while the Immersion guise remains as weightless as it should be, one can’t help but look up and see the familiar stars above.
Each track on Analogue Creatures echoes a quest that others have already completed. Immersion boast about the guitar parts lent by Spigel, as the group’s last two albums were solely electronic affairs; and while that extra hum may be new to them, it mostly sounds like a re-jiggering of Robert Fripp’s signature soaring tone, simplified to suit less dynamic spheres. This is especially true on 'Shapeshifters' – which is fine and serene, but at just under four minutes, the track can’t ascend in the same way.
That’s the main problem with a 10-inch comeback EP – grand cosmic waves that should stretch to infinity run into time barriers. The gentle, Cluster-ish sweep of opener 'Always the Sea' has barely begun to unfold when it must already fade. The hypnotic underwater pulse of 'Organic Cities' – a very Tangerine Dream groove, with just a shade of gothic acoustics – leaves a chilly but faint impression. Every time I go back into it, I feel like I’m searching for something I’ve lost, or forgotten, or which I’ve forgotten that I’ve lost, so it’s not even a search at all, just a dazed wandering where I hope to find something that I never knew I had. Well, OK, so that makes'“Organic Cities' the best track on the album, but still it ends too quickly, before any misplaced object can be found or remembered.
The only song that does stretch past four minutes is 'Mechanical Creatures', a six-minute drone workout that warps and throbs and shimmers, indeed like a sentient device. And you can sit through it once, twice, three times in a row, if your desire is to hang your music like curtains for the sake of meditation, or leisurely reading, or very pleasant hallucinations. But after a while, you do wonder why this, why now, and why not something else.
Because, ultimately, Analogue Creatures amounts to nothing more than a vanity project, an afternoon reunion of old peers at play. In fact, compared to the muted club beats of Oscillating and the stretched-out fog of Low Impact, this EP throws Immersion back several steps rather than pressing them onward. By now, the electronic avant-garde is far and away from spaced-out minimalism, as artists like Eric Copeland, Henry Plotnick, and Container can readily demonstrate. Sure, maybe Newman and Spigel’s only aim is to disappear behind a moniker again – but without any distinctive sign of progress, their crystalline alter ego just blends in with the starry sky.
6Lee Adcock's Score