Album review by Brock Haug "Byron Ferrari"
Electronic music has always been about pushing boundaries. Since Wendy Carlos’s Moog-powered Switched-on Bach LP, since the late Dave Smith’s now industry-standard experiments in polyphony, creators have consistently asked themselves how far they can go as musicians. Innovation, then, moves fast, with musicians developing exciting new techniques to bring novel sounds from their instruments. Oscill8’s latest compilation, titled Immersion, follows in that tradition, with each track pushing boundaries of genre and composition.
Participants in Immersion were asked to create a new piece for the compilation using a maximum of one electronic and one acoustic sound source. The musicians featured on this compilation took this opportunity and ran with it, digging deep into their instruments’ capabilities to develop whole arrangements across genres including ambient, techno, synthwave and more. The results are varied in tone yet cohesive as an album, and thrilling from end to end.
skwrl opens the album with his song “Pyre”. Created using his Pro-2 synthesizer and his own vocals, Skwrl delivers a cinematic ballad which will delight fans of Hybrid and Depeche Mode. Next, untrained animals’ “Sounds Like Serum” marries live guitar with pads and percussion from the Serum VST, creating an atmosphere which recalls mid-’90s rave and classic G-funk. verticalpark employs the Vital VST and found recordings, contributing a melodic track with elements of trance, progressive house and deep techno. "Revitalize" centres around a robotic vocal and a warm, ascending arpeggio, evoking a science fiction space journey.
KillMiDi and Enno Karr collaborate on the deep tech roller “Beyond Eleusis”. Employing Native Instruments’ Straylight and Yamaha’s Reface DX, their track is expansive in its scope, anchored by the throb of the kick, the hiss of the hats, and a melodic piano line. It segues into Somnology’s “Orthogonal Loop”, an ambient track created with Soma Laboratory’s Lyra-8 and a lap steel guitar. “Orthogonal Loop” deepens the album’s sense of mystery, building a nocturnal soundscape ideal for a late walk home down a deserted winter street. darkpyro’s “the next day” follows, a dark future house banger done in the Phase Plant VST. Melody cascades over a heavy bass throb in a track which sounds like a future highlight of a Flume festival set.
Jonnay turns in “Lace Up Your Boots” at the album’s centre, a peak-time acid weapon created with vocals and the Behringer 2600. Energetic and intense, the track’s slamming 4/4 beat and booming, protest themed vocal are ready to light up the summer’s warehouse raves and will surely get the walls sweating. Room Elephant follows with the pulsing “Good Old Days,” recalling vintage techno and post-punk at once with its catchy vocal and saturated sound design from Ableton’s Wavetable soft synth. HedSnap’s eerie “Babygirl… no your not” uses the MC-707 to masterful effect, framing a minimal, kick-driven beat with vocal samples to create an atmosphere at once danceable and foreboding.
Scotchbear’s “Sculptors of Noise” highlights the versatility of the Phase Plant VST, blending a rhythmic vocal by turns sung, rapped, and whispered with a drum and bass arrangement straight from London’s late ‘90s. Every sound on this energetic track was generated using white, pink and brown noise. Byron Ferrari is up next with “Your Electricity,” using Korg’s Volca Modular and vocodered vox to deliver an edgy electroclash number. Byron’s track shapes metallic synth sounds into a pop format, juxtaposing melody and dissonance. Waivestate’s “This is Fine” melds field recordings with a modular synth arrangement to create something calm and anxious at once, a chaotic sound world formed around a singular, insistent beat. Dannysbeat employs software synth on “Speakerbox” to build an electro-house heater around a strong melodic lead. The end result is funky enough to keep any dancefloor packed, with a melody that will raise the vibe in any room it’s played in.
Simulations’ “Microwave Wheel” brings a menacing, martial rhythm to play with a twinkling synth melody, at once recalling sounds as disparate as WaxTrax!-style industrial and early 2000s IDM, the melody’s lightness contrasting with the beat’s dark grind. The track was composed using a C78, Ableton’s sampler, and found sounds, specifically the beep and hum of a Danby microwave. Finally, PinPoin7’s “In the Beginning” uses Novation’s Summit to create a truly epic modern trance tune, its ripples of bass making space for a glimmer of chords and melody.
In artistic practice, it’s common to impose limits on oneself, narrowing the scope of a project and allowing the artist to focus on the most important details. Throughout Immersion, we find artists expanding their knowledge of their chosen instruments by exploring their capabilities from all angles. The results are fresh, dynamic and reflective of the DIY spirit informing all these musicians’ practice. We hope you enjoy hearing it as much as we did making it.