DeFocus triumph once again with the signing of Bulgaria’s George Marinov. Enveloped is Esem’s wondrous debut album, released late last year, and follows the beautiful and melancholy Ikae 12″, that also appeared on DeFocus. Continuing the labels tradition of releasing high quality, accessible yet unique electronica, Enveloped is a journey through panoramic mood music, awash with eerie pads, glittering keys and crushed percussion. Not only that, but Enveloped presents the listener with a wide range of styles, moods and textures across it’s impressive thirteen tracks.
Much like the more varied pieces by Plaid, the tracks on Enveloped rarely close in the same sonic space in which they opened. There is a broad shift in stylistic direction from one track to the next but, much the same as previous albums released on DeFocus, the album as a whole has a unique character that spans its entire length. The scene is set perfectly by the opening track “Eloki.neadu”, a stark, ticking and melancholy reworking of “Eloki” that first appeared on the Ikae 12″ that slowly transforms into a swirling and emotional sound-scape. “Eloki.neadu” possesses an elegance and mesmeric beauty that grabs hold of the listener and won’t let go. Little wonder then that it has become the signature tune for the Digital::Nimbus Radio/MP3 show on KUCI, for example.
In stark contrast, “Qre.i” follows in a more electro driven direction, full of wowing synth chords and powdery percussion that’s reminiscent of Tim Koch’s Shorts in Alaska long player (also on DeFocus). There then follows a new version of “Preledd” (previously released on the DeFocus Two You See and Do You See Compilations), called “Postledd”. A more minimal, spatial and cut up version of “Preledd” this is easily identifiable as a new version of the same track, and yet is fundamentally different in its mood and outlook.
Enveloped reaches wonderful peaks with the majestic and iridescent “3k2” and “B4 igo”, fantastically evocative soundtracks to space travel. Enveloped is a rare species indeed: an album with a broad palette that has all the qualities of a classic work presented in perfect balance. It is esoterically produced and yet has a broad appeal and startling accessibility. It features outstanding production that is almost forensic in it’s detail, but remains utterly free of any pretension, always sounding organic and natural, never clinical. It has a huge breadth and variety of style but remains focused and consistent. It is both complex and subtle, yet each track features beautifully-layered melodies that are highly memorable.
The DeFocus label has established a reputation for releasing warm, melodic and moody EP’s and long players and Enveloped upholds this reputation perfectly. Undoubtedly the best release on DeFocus to date, Enveloped has both broad appeal and startling accessibility. This album is utterly free of the pretension, whilst at the same time feeling both unique and inspiring. It is an album that, were it given the wider attention it so richly deserves, would be the ideal platform with which to convince non-IDM listeners that this genre can be truly beautiful and genuinely moving. Even without vocals.
Make sure you pick up a copy of the Ikae 12″ too, as it is the perfect extension and accompaniment for this startling release. Do not spend another moment without this long player. Buy now, treasure forever.
Esem’s upcoming Serial Human debut long-player for Merck Records is out in March, 2003.