ALBUM OF THE DAY
EMÆNUEL, “SUKISTAN”
By Andy Beta · June 06, 2022 Merch for this release:
Cassette

Approaching the work of Nigerian-born, London-based sound artist EMÆNUEL often presents more questions than answers. Just look at the near pitch-black of the cover of EMÆNUEL’s third release Sukistan (either as the cassette J-card or as a .jpg) and try to decipher the gray shape in the lower corner. Is it an x-ray of an egg? Is it from a brain MRI scan? Might it be EMÆNUEL’s own skull?

While the album was said to have been written years before, when EMÆNUEL was living/visiting/traveling through the tumultuous Indian city of Kolkata, “an experiment in rapid exploration,” that exotic location belies the profound sense of interiority of the music itself. The Nigerian artist might be mysterious, but we find ourselves deeply immersed in his soundworld, which has a few similarities to the likes of Demdike Stare, KMRU, or Tim Hecker (with a touch of the clamor of the artists on the Nyege Nyege Tapes roster), but it’s hard to imagine that any sound originates from the outside world, as everything seems to arise from some dark, turbid place. Listen to “Rivers of Blood” on headphones and you might conflate its echoing pings, metallic clangs, and watery drips with other noises, so neatly does it dissolve amid the exterior noises of a subterranean subway ride, or in the lightless ambiance of an echoing cave.

EMÆNUEL is adept at making every sound feel temporal, intangible. So even amid the heavy throb and percussion of “Bhadralok,” bass-heavy fuzz-blasts keep knocking the rhythmic clatter off-center, unsettled. “Cold” also cloaks itself in shoegaze-heavy distortion, as if channeled through thoroughly blasted earbuds. “Dust” lives up to its title, the droney ambiance at the beginning of the piece melting away to reveal even more desolate space, It’s here that the darkness of the first half of the album begins to let in a little glint of light, as mesmerizing shimmer and the sounds of running water overtake the piece.

“Ambrosia” begins with a dense din, only to widen as a deep bass tone sounds and higher, bell-like chimes start to resonate. Sukistan, as the accompanying text explains, “is dedicated to a friend who restored faith in the artist.” Moving from a despairing to hopeful outlook, that sense of dichotomy informs the entire album. EMÆNUEL captures such conflicting aspects, his sound moving from night to daylight, the brusque and noisy towards smoothness, tumultuous to peaceful, even if it’s the kind of pivot and realization that only occurs within one’s own mind.

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