Review Summary: Accessible, glossy and energetic drum 'n' bass with a little more to offer when explored fully
debuting at #1 in the UK when it came out in mid-2010, Pendulum are now at the height of their popularity, and whilst their reputation is focused mainly around their energetic live shows and rock infused drum ‘n’ bass, people who pay deeper attention to Immersion
will be rewarded with music which has obviously gone through a little more thought than might have originally been expected.
serves as a pure dance album and as an experimental one, doing well to (mostly) not compromise either. Of course, the underlying, pulsating, dance-inducing heartbeat is ever present, and is occasionally allowed to stampede free from other constraints to serve purely
as dance music, resulting in the most intense and arguably some of the best tracks- namely, “The Vulture”, “The Island – Pt. II” and “Salt In The Wounds” (which comes bursting in through the fairytale-like opener of "Genesis" and boasts an immensely catchy melody to match its intensity.)
Before this intensity overstays its welcome, it’s toned down a bit to allow other aspects take the helm. “Witchcraft” opens with Rob Swire crooning a relatively soft vocal melody which is eventually interspersed with another synthesised, catchy melody. Lead single “Watercolour” is another
catchy number centred mostly around the vocals (and is therefore probably the most accessible and pop-y track) but brings in a piano and brass section as an added touch. “The Island – Pt. I” is quite possibly the highlight of the entire album. Rob Swire’s vocals build up perfectly to the climax- yet another synthesised melody; immense, almost impossible to stay still to and probably the catchiest moment on the entire album. It eventually glides slowly into the second half of “The Island”, ‘Dusk’, the aforementioned explosive, dark and brash older brother of ‘Dawn’ to provide the perfect counterpart. The Prodigy’s Liam Howlett provides his know-how on “Immunize” to give the song a snarling punk sound, and In Flames give “Self Vs Self” an enjoyable metal-y edge. But one of the most interesting and best tracks comes in the form of “Set Me On Fire”, which interlaces electronic vigour with sampled vocals from Cocoa Tea’s “We Do The Killing” to give the song a reggae overtone that creates a vibe that doesn’t sound a million miles off traditional African music. Combined with an irregular and sinister underlying rhythm, “Set Me On Fire” is still fun, in line with the rest of “Immersion”, but dark, deep and strangely beautiful.
This dark vibe is apparent throughout the album in fact. Have you played Mass Effect? Have you been to the Afterlife nightclub on Omega? That’s where it feels like you’re transported to when you listen to this album. To those of you unfamiliar- Immersion
’s vibe is energetic, futuristic, dark and anthemic. Its subtleties balance with the boldness and it provides enough diversity to deliver and amplify the great songwriting, whilst retaining the night-time dance-aspect and not trying to span so
much as to leave the album in a confused mess. Even some of the weaker tracks, most notably “Crush”, “Under The Waves”, “Comprachicos” and “The Fountain” (the latter featuring Steven Wilson, whose vocals just about manage to avoid losing the spotlight), are still enjoyable to some degree or another and it’s only really with the final track, “Encoder”, that the music sounds dull and uninspired, passing by with hardly any effect on the listener.
Overall however, Pendulum have released an album that proves they’re deserving of their elevated position in the music world. There’d be nothing to stop you from treating Immersion
just as club music (poking a little into rock music) to dance to, and at its heart that’s probably still its core purpose (it never strays extremely
far from its origins), but that it can still successfully be more than that, only just
feel a little bloated at its 15 track/67 minute length and still be accessible, fun and catchy is something to be admired; it’s probably harder than it looks to create music which is accessible to a large audience whilst at the same time delving into enough creative ideas to provide inventive and interesting music. Most tracks have something unique to offer as well as their near universal ability to induce a dance frenzy and provide a large, catchy melody; and those that don’t quite reach that are generally still fun. Here’s hoping to more of the same in the future.