Our long-time readers ~ those who followed us from a previous site a decade ago ~ may recall Immanu El, a Swedish post-rock band who made an impact with a mostly instrumental presentation. Over the decade, they began to add more vocals, to the point that they dropped off our review radar. But in 2021, that old beloved sound has returned.
The thread stretches back to 2019’s Structures and the track “Breathe In, Black Out,” which is instrumental, to “Breathe In, Black Out, Pt. 2,” the lead track of the new EP. The Distance is the time traveled since the onset of Covid-19, during which the band, like every band, put its tour dreams on pause. To hear the first part of a track before the pandemic and the second at what we hope is the tail end produces the sense that time has folded like a piece of paper. The timbre quieter, as the band has made a slight shift from post-rock to post-rock/ambient; the encouraging impression is that in some cases, we can pick up where we left off. There’s a touch of Sigur Rós in the buried vocals, but that’s never a bad thing.
Immanu El has always been soothing, but the minimization of lyrics returns them to reflection. Recording from home is different from trying tracks out on the road; it’s possible these pieces will be played prior to concerts as audiences are gathering, rather than during the concerts themselves. These tracks are in no hurry to get anywhere, reflecting on the time the world was stuck at home. The softest moments arrive midway through “Sparks,” as clouds part to reveal the piano. The first lyrics appear, albeit only a minute’s worth, sung in a hush. Spark, rising through the dark … In isolation, the band is already looking forward to exultation.
“Desesaure” contains a soft, lightly distorted explosion, more like a puff of smoke than a fire, a reminder of subdued activities. In the closing piece the band returns to “the new normal,” singing of quiet, rest and sleep, intimating rejuvenation rather than restriction. Immanu El has found its way out of isolation; sometimes all it takes is a spark to light the way. (Richard Allen)