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IMMANU EL // DISTANCE - ULTRA CLEAR ROSE W/ DARK BLUE SMOKE (LP)
RELEASE DATE: 17th December 2021
After more than a decade and a half crafting their reputation as one of the finest and most well-regarded performers of atmospheric post-rock, Swedish legends Immanu El are joining the dunk!records family for the release of their sixth LP, Distance. In a departure from the dream pop compositions of their previous releases, the band largely eschew vocals and live percussion on this album. They instead focus their energies on a style of world-building, featuring layered guitars and synths which carefully reveal lush soundscapes and wield stillness and subtlety as tools to create high impact delivered in hushed tones.
Though it is a bold move to take so dramatic a detour sonically, Distance isn’t an album likely to alienate long-time fans. To the contrary, the band continues to foster similar aesthetics even as they move away from their traditional style of arrangement. The basic DNA remains the same: a patient attention to detail, introspective quality, and ethereal presentation, forming the nucleus that defines Immanu El. The only difference is that the cell housing it is characterized by a quieter and more meditative nature.
This lived-in sound can be seen clearly on a track like “Sparks.” From its ambient framework, with gentle electronics softly skimming the edges of atmospheric pedal effects, there are faint but familiar glimmers of the Immanu El trademarks. These come in the form of distant guitar melodies that tell of a quiet vibrance, or whispers of vocals that lend a warmth and sense of assurance. Before long, these traces give way to passages in which the vocals shine to the surface, with their brevity in the scope of the full album allowing for elevated impact. Listeners will find a similar effect on “The Big Sleep” and “Watershed,” but more importantly they’ll discover how this track and “Sparks” fold seamlessly into the whole of Distance. It is by far the most restrained Immanu El record, but the risk inherent in presenting a work so divergent from expectations is paid off handsomely with the richly rewarding results.
The real beauty of Distance lies in the idea that whether the universe unveiled throughout the record is smaller or larger than the band’s previous work is entirely up to each individual listener. Some may absorb it as an intimate and singular experience, while others may listen as they stare up at the stars, allowing it to become the soundtrack of their most expansive thoughts. Neither choice makes more sense than the other, giving Distance the rare quality of being an experimental artistic deviation by an established band that proves to be entirely triumphant in its aims.
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