It’s not hard to figure out what Subaqueous' major influence is. The nomenclature alone serves as a guide: subaqueous, the moniker of Seattle’s Isaac Cotec has been using to create his drippy ‘step since 2011 (though other projects of his date back to 2005,) means “existing or forming beneath water.” It makes perfect sense when you start to listen: the wordly beats and sounds Cotec included on the album ooze together like different liquids combining in a dish. For instance, when Cotec drops an udu (an African percussion instrument made out of, what else, a water jug) into the atmospheric soundscape at the beginning of “Luminescence,” it’s like watching the pigment of food coloring blossom in clear water.
That oceany smell might be strongest on his most recent album. To reiterate his aqueous theme, Cotec named it Immerge, meaning to “disappear, as if beneath liquid.” His music has been given a lot of labels as it evolved (lovestep and gypsystep are two tags we found particularly interesting). This is probably due to the diverse influences and combinations of really varied sounds throughout the album. For instance, in “Gypsy Splash,” Cotec arranges a trippy bassline (that might serve a snake charmer well) alongside the kind of rickety percussion that might come from one of those wooden frogs with ridges cut into its back (did we also hear a subtle sample of waves crashing on shore?). On the same track, Cotec hikes the expressive drumbeats of a soft hand drum up and down like the shifting currents of a large river. Individually, the various samples and instruments Cotec includes are simple and slow; basic percussion, simple wind flutes, drums. However, the final product’s complexity makes something aurally exciting.
In the spirit of mixing and combining, Cotec includes many voices and instrumental skillsets in Immerge. He uses some very breathy vocals from a lady called Emma Staake alongside a twangy, exotic beat on “Invoking.” He allows a rather acrobatic flute to nudge its way into a thicket of jangling drumbeat on “In Spire,” (also including what may be a dog woofing). There is a lot of attention to choosing excellent sources and braiding them together in creative patterns.
The record is a fascinating compilation of layers and layers of worldly gook Cotec steeps robustly. The individual sounds included on the album might have stood awkwardly alone, but Subaqueous gently prodded them into embracing one another, slow and easy. Like movements underwater, each thrust and burst of beat or synth creates energetic ripples, cascading through the sound and giving everything a barely-connected, aquatic feel.
2. Exotic Vision
4. Gypsy Splash
5. Devotion Afloat
9. Divine Revision
10. In Spire