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Sleepless Tim Sommer , July 25th, 2018 17:14

Malka Spigel and Colin Newman's new album is no mere side project but a work of neo-Krautrock wonder, says Tim Sommer

It would be fair to call this chiming, seductive, and mesmerising album neo-Krautrock, but that undermines the achievements of mobility, hypno-elegance, and charm that Sleepless attains; and it would be not entirely inaccurate to call it a side-project, though to slap that demeaning label on such a singular, confident and adamant album is just unnecessary.

Immersion approach the Krautrock genre with a reverence for its forms, but without the smug musical craft-beer-ism inherent to so many Post-Krautrock bands. Sleepless is a gorgeous, mesmeric, simple but giant album that has a stately but firm sway and pulse; engaging but enchanting, it has a fairly adamant opium and espresso quality that makes it both spacious and frantic, like watching the Bergen-Oslo train ride episode of Slow TV on 6x speed. Entirely instrumental, it’s one of those very, very small handful of albums that I didn’t even notice was instrumental until the second or third listen, that’s how complete it is.

There is some back story, that is curious but far from necessary: Immersion are the occasional side project of Wire’s Colin Newman and his wife of 32 years, Malka Spigel, who was a co-leader of the much regarded Israeli/Belgian alternArt band, Minimal Compact (think Bush Tetras if they had been from Leeds and had the warm shiver-glow of the Go Betweens – which is to say they resembled more agitated Eyeless in Gaza. Got it?). Immersion has been the steadiest and perhaps the most conceptually complete and aesthetically satisfying of the numerous projects Spigel and Newman collaborate on (the most notable of the others being the Stereolab-ish Githead and Spigel’s own, often stunning, solo recordings). However, in no way, shape or form does Sleepless feel like a side project; it feels like year zero for an absolutely delicious band that engages the mind and the heart with the simple, harmonic Jenga pieces of Krautrock.

This lovely, shimmering, head-nodding neck-swaying chill-rock oxygen-inhale Buddha outbreath of an album reminds me of everything from the Feelies (if they were listened to while sipping whiskey and popping Benadryl) to early-ish Tangerine Dream to Metal Box-era PiL to Pylon to trippy-time Kraftwerk, oh, and it’s all under a consistent pergola roof made of the fronds of harmonic ambient champions like Stuart Dempster or Pauline Oliveras. But oddly (and damn curiously), what it does not remind me of is Wire. Immersion’s past releases – four albums and a brace of EP’s - had what I will call a quality consistent with Wire’s ethos to shake you with sound and idea and leave you awed and curious; but this is the first Immersion album to really feel like it exists outside of the polished note-taking and exquisite memos that Wire specialise in. This album finds its own place of grace, and exists entirely within it.

Too strident to be remotely ambient, and too thoroughly liquid to be pure post punk, Sleepless is the kind of album you simply fall for, in a way that you embrace something that sounds familiar but almost aggressively fresh and vibrant; and like seductive but unnerving classics by Pink Floyd, PiL, Roedelius, Riley or Eno, it wraps you in fur but never quite allows you to relax.