Depending on your perspective, indigo can be the first or the last stripe of the rainbow: either the darkness into which all color melts, or the starting point from which the entire spectrum unfolds. London-via-Merseyside producer E.M.M.A. shifts back and forth between these viewpoints on Indigo Dream, where widescreen ’80s excess—all neon pinks, retro-wave fonts, and cocaine euphoria—runs into moody, intricate atmospheres reminiscent of the soundtracks for indie video games like Wilmot’s Warehouse, Limbo, and Monument Valley.
In the years since her first LP, 2013’s Blue Gardens, E.M.M.A. has turned to soundtracking campaigns for fashion houses including Gucci and Chanel, as well as scoring a clutch of short films. After the clubbish lean of Blue Gardens, Indigo Dream tilts toward the cinematic and the intimate. Synths take center stage here, but with a cool restraint throughout. “Interlude” exhibits a painterly approach; “Wave” trills and glistens; “Shell” stirs on a swollen bed of woven arpeggios; and there’s a moment halfway through “Ballad of Janet” when the bassline gives way to an electrifying wash of synthetic strings. Occasionally these touches feel overwrought and meandering: “Ryan Gosling in Space” attempts to wrench color and emotion from a dense, reverberating array of keys and snares, but what should be punchy comes off as wandering and unfocused.
Some of the tracks here date back as far as 2015, but much of the dancefloor-dependent drum work that threaded its way through previous outings (see the abrasive Baroque-step of 2017’s “Mindmaze”) is absent here. It appears in occasional flourishes—the delicate, snapping menace of “Shell,” or the rounding kicks and bitcrushed claps of “Echo”—but elsewhere E.M.M.A. makes inventive percussive use of a whole range of other sounds: fizzes of white noise on “Gold,” a plucked synth on “Interlude” that conjures water droplets breaking the glassy surface of some otherworldly lake. The occasional insertion of field recordings and found sounds (birds chirp on “Ballad of Janet”; “Into Indigo” conceals a distant thunderstorm) offer an organic presence in an otherwise computer-generated enclave.
Despite the album’s slight, 35-minute runtime, recurring movements and motifs across the nine songs make it feel weightier and more substantial—like a slowly unwinding conversation or, for that matter, a dream: the type you strain to keep a grip on as another morning pulls you from slumber.
Catch up every Saturday with 10 of our best-reviewed albums of the week. Sign up for the 10 to Hear newsletter here.