Review: Unfold – IMANU

In August 2019, a drum and bass wunderkind by the name of Signal announced a name change to IMANU in an interview with UKF. The discussion served as somewhat of a mission statement of what he wanted to accomplish under the new name, giving him a chance to start fresh.

As Signal, he released an EP on the revered drum and bass label Critical Music when he was 16 years old. He continued his exploits in that genre for the next four years but like many drum and bass producers throughout history, he wanted to do something different with his sound. This has proved to be a beneficial decision for other renowned house producers such as Redlight, Boddika, and Eli Brown. All had fruitful careers in drum & bass but found even more success branching out, and IMANU wanted to be the next in that mold.

His shift in genre was a bit more gradual. Over the past 3 years following his name change, he put out drum and bass releases on Noisia’s label Vision and the aforementioned Critical, but the genre experimentation began increasing from year to year. He put his stamp on genres such as dubstep on “Whatever It Takes,” future bass on his remix of Tokimonsta’s “Love That Never,” and trap on “Skin to Skin,” but his most successful endeavor was his house remix of Apashe and High Klassified’s “I’m Fine,” which exposed him to a lot of new listeners. In totality, these songs ended up serving as a prelude for what was to come on his newly-released debut album as IMANU, Unfold.

Making an album in the world of dance music can often be tricky, especially when you’re an artist typically known for making high-energy music as IMANU is. Oftentimes, it seems well-known artists compile a scattershot collection of songs across various genres with little-to-no coherence to appease all of their different fan groups. Unfold releases on Zeds Dead’s label Deadbeats, whose catalog for full-lengths critically varies—they released the incredible Shades LP In Praise of Darkness but also the dreadful Blunts & Blondes album from earlier this year. 

Fortunately, quality-wise, Unfold more closely resembles the former. The album comes out of the gates very strong with “It’s Our Destiny”. IMANU is never shy about showing his reverence for Flume, and this song with frequent Flume collaborator Kučka is reminiscent of Hi This Is Flume in sound design and quality. He brings in a wide variety of other guests to help him cultivate his vision, including The Caracal Project, What So Not, Louis Futon, and an uncredited Good Times Ahead (whose album from 2016 served as a bit of a template for Unfold) among numerous others. Although this album primarily traverses genres such as house, garage, and trap/future bass for the majority of its runtime, he does featur three drum and bass songs on the album—the more subdued “Empress” and “Haunt My Mind” as well as the higher-energy and more experimental “1000 Year Reign” which is a perfect album closer.

Unfold is a rare album in electronic music. It manages to be largely vocal-driven and authentically pop-leaning, while at the same time retaining the level of experimentation and variety that IMANU is known for without sacrificing cohesion and consistency. You’d be hard-pressed to find a debut LP in electronic music in 2022 that sounds this polished and fully-formed. Unfold is extremely impressive body of work, and the sky is the limit for IMANU. 

Unfold is available now on all platforms.

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