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Album Review

To give the impression that early releases on their Swim label were the work of artists other than Colin Newman and Malka Spigel themselves, the couple invented an enigmatic, reclusive duo from Eastern Europe named Oscillating to flesh out their roster. Oscillating contributed remixes of tracks from Tree by Oracle (the proto-trip-hop outfit consisting of Newman, Spigel, and Samy Birnbach) to a 1994 Swim 12" EP and, following a name-change to Immersion, recorded the album Oscillating. While the electronica of Oscillating shows a certain continuity with Tree, albeit stripped down to a minimal level, it also marks a considerable departure from Newman and Spigel's collaboration on Spigel's Rosh Ballata, a release with a more melodic, song-based sensibility. Built largely around the Korg MS10 analog monosynth, Oscillating comprises an hour of sparse, pulsing instrumental compositions in which Newman and Spigel dispense with the conventions of the pop narrative. Instead, the duo pursues almost imperceptibly metamorphosing experimental soundscapes. These are crafted from the subtle addition and subtraction of layers (basslines, drones, fragments of melody, and all manner of electronic noises), encompassing passages of beat-driven insistence and near-beatless ambience. With their subtle plays of sonic repetition and difference, "Water Walker" and the more abstract, 11-minute "Les Iles Flottantes" encapsulate Newman and Spigel's approach. Their textures slowly build, mutate, and ultimately dissipate. In keeping with its title, Oscillating has a pervasively hypnotic feel throughout, whether on the throbbing and shimmering "No Surrender" (one of the previously released Oracle remixes) or the mesmerizing "Oscillating Between." Released amid a climate of nascent Brit-pop dominated by guitar bands, Oscillating was largely overlooked at home. Nevertheless, the album's austere, ambient grooves were well-received in Germany, where it became the label's biggest-selling release (owing perhaps to rumors that the mysterious duo was actually German).

Oscillating, Immersion
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