Immersion


The year is 1994. Swim ~ has successfully launched itself into the public consciousness, first with Malka Spigel's  Rosh Ballata album and then followed it up with the Oracle album on which swim creators Malka Spigel and Colin Newman had laboured since the mid '80's with the person later to become DJ Morpheus, Samy Birnbach. That tricky third album loomed, made especially difficult by the fact that despite it's two releases Swim ~ didn't actually have any other artists on the label. So a strategy was devised that the new album then currently being created by Malka and Colin would be made under a pseudonym.

Thus a "fictitious" signing later Immersion was born along with a highly dubious biography (they were supposed to be from somewhere in Eastern Europe and were very publicity shy). It's first outing was actually under the name of "Oscillating" (later the title of the debut album) who along with the equally bogus "Earth" remixed Oracle on the very first (and now very rare) swim 12" vinyl release (incidentally the only one NOT in the 12" vinyl series). Despite it's relative obscurity this record had some rather interesting consequences. Firstly the Earth mix of "Flow" was licensed onto the first of the Freezone series, not really unusual as Samy was of course Malka and Colin's Oracle partner but interesting in that this really marked the post-Oracle emergence of the Newman's and Birnbach into the wider "dance" community. The 12" was charted in mixmag update by Beggars Banquet shop in Putney, filling in "the platters that matter" that week was one Rob Fitzpatrick in pre Ronnie and Clyde days.  An encounter with Scanner "superstar" Robin Rimbaud in Battersea park led on to a chain of events which was to greatly influence the future course of swim~.

At that time Robin was under intense media scrutiny for both his highly influential combinations of  "illbient" soundscape with snooped analogue cell phone calls and his monthly Electronic Lounge club which proved to be a highly fertile cross-discipline meeting point and excuse for drinking too much (this despite the Scanster's well known teetotalship). Anyhow, he'd picked up the Oracle Remixes 12" on a recommendation from Dave Cawley at the late lamented Fat Cat record shop and had been impressed not only by it's contents but because he knew through mutual friends that this was music not made by 20 year old hopefuls but by people long established in the industry who by rights shouldn't be able to make waves in the ultra-cool post techno climate that was the London scene at that time. He immediately offered a remix. It was to prove the first offer of many.


 
The studio beckoned, they had an album to do. Immersion was founded on the premise that sound should envelop, that machines have souls and that freedom from narrative can allow the listener to develop his or her own connections. The key instrument is the mighty Korg MS10 a single oscillator analogue monosynth which self oscillates in a way which the techno favourite TB 303 could never aspire to. Malka has owned her MS10 since their original 80's release and she specializes in finding "Iraqi" sounds. Sounds so full of the rich overtones of middle eastern tongues that at times they become unreadable as synthesis . The album Oscillating was completed very quickly, released in late '94 and promptly almost completely ignored in the UK. Only the Wire reviewed it describing as "acid trax wound down to such an extent that the "notes" fold slowly in on one another rather than jumping around in hyperventilating panic"  in a generally positive review. However it had a much stronger reception in Germany where it became one of Swim's best selling CD releases. Perhaps the unfounded rumour that Immersion were German helped, perhaps it's mood, often mistaken by indie-rock weaned Brits as cold, was more correctly understood by a culture more immersed in techno culture.


Meanwhile the volunteer remixers were queuing up. The first volume featured Rimbaud (as Trawl), US techno pioneer Mark Gage (Vapourspace, Cusp) who the swimsters had met through mutual friends during one of his UK trips (it later transpired that Mark had been a very big fan of both Wire & Minimal Compact), Craig Wharton, a long time buddy of Gage's who had in fact introduced him to the whole art of making music with synthesizers (some of the Vapourspace stuff dates from the early '80's) and Intens, yet another alias of Colin & Malka. The Trawl mix proved to be a dancefloor fave for many years with it's early big-break approach. The second volume of remixes drafted in some US techno talent in the shape of ex-Psychic TV'er Fred Giannelli who had his own highly respected Telepathic label, soon to be star DJ Claude Young (his first remix) as well as ex-Napalm Death and Scorn man Mick Harris along with mystery remixers "Iris" (the only mystery artists who definitely aren't Colin and Malka). By this time the remix project was in overdrive. Many more remixes were received than released. It became obvious that these needed to be complied onto CD. This release became Full Immersion which added bonus remixes by g-man (Gez' tape which included his remix also included the tracks which were to later become the first g-man 12") and Immersion themselves. Although in hindsight the remix only album has become an accepted format, in 1995 this was not so and "Full Immersion" was in fact a ground breaking concept.

 
 


 
 
The Immersion/ Immersion remix project created many connections to swim ~ and brought along many new artists but there became a point when the remixes had to stop. The decision was taken to release one more 12" (vol.3,  the most obscure of the series) focussing on artists striving for a more "digital" sound featuring the new young talent of Jon Ryman, the pro-tools manipulation of Pablo Castrati (PK, author of the parallel series), the digital jazz of the highly respected Australian composer Paul Schutze and the full on "road accident" which is Cylob's treatment. Now it was time for Immersion proper to re-emerge.

First signs of life were an appearance during the swim night at the phonotaktic festival in Vienna in Autumn '95.
Apart from a one off promotional concert to promote the Israeli release of "Rosh Ballata" in 1993 this was Colin & Malka's first public appearance for many years. One girl, one boy, one keyboard, one sampler and a DAT all set up in the corner of the stage. The first public admittance that they were in fact Immersion. A few hundred sweaty bodies crammed into a boat seemed to love it, most of them didn't seem to know or care who the individuals behind Immersion were. They just loved the music. As a direct result the 2nd Immersion 12" saw a release in 1996. It was immediately taken up by a diverse bunch of DJ's and Immersion themselves were now being approached to remix artists like Unitone Hi-Fi and Bowery Electric. As well as being invited onto various compilations (Serenity Dub, Dream Injection, Broken Voice) Immersion were also invited to take part in a group show (the Event Horizon) at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) in Dublin at the behest of long time friend and curator Michael Tarrantino, in Autumn 1996. The show which also included Sam Taylor Wood and Atom Egoyan has Immersion soundtracking a huge space (half of the museum) with the beat less auto creations emanating from 10 CD players. Immersion also DJ'ed at the show's opening party where they brought along the holidaying Japanese Metro-juice crew, Yoshio Maeda (dol-lop) and Tomoki Tsukamoto (w-moon) for their first ever public performances.


 
However there was trouble brewing. A soundsystem which called itself Immersion had started to release hard acid records on a small label. The label boss was happy enough at swim's suggestion that the project to be released under a name including Immersion but the artist concerned was not and swim~ got several abusive phone call even though the first Immersion album preceded any of his by 3 years. It left a bad taste and the Immersion project went on the back boiler while the Newmans worked on first 1997's "Bastard" and "Hide" and then 1998's  "My Pet Fish".

It is now 1999. The whole musical climate has now changed. Malka and Colin are no longer interested in producing items for the dance floor and there is a sense that Immersion has to find a way to return to it's roots, to reacquire a meaning for the next Millennium. Just as the first album was a distorting mirror on the techno of it's time, re-fashioning it through the lens of submergence and 2nd Immersion along with other contemporary Immersion tracks encompassed every dance floor rhythmic style and reflected the distortions of those back in crystalline clarity, then the new album "Low Impact" reflects the beat less boundaries where style become immaterial. A music of immense proportion yet keen subtlety which desires to envelop and subvert all of the listener's preconceptions. Immersion is re-born. 
 

The year is 1999.