Seattle's Emuul has been around the block a few times over the last few years, releasing an excellent string of tapes on Digitalis, Monorail Trespassing, Stunned and others. Emuul (Kyle Iman) has always shown a masterful level of restraint and subtlety, letting the listener fill in the blanks rather than laying it all out for you. Iman uses each song as a dot on a map that will ultimately lead you to the treasure. The Drawing of the Line is his most fully-realized work. He has crafted a set of deceptively complex songs that flirt with unexpected, slightly-buried pop influences to create an expertly-composed meditation on an unknown future.
Each track tells a small part of a larger story and Iman uses similar elements with each to tie everything together. On the opener, “Expectations,” Emuul is at its restrained and sanguine best. Using a series of repetitive, evocative notes over a bed of rising-and-falling oscillations, there is much promise ahead. The piece embraces the feeling of not knowing what is next but feeling in awe of the wonder it promises. “Love Theme” is even more tender and blossoms into near-catharsis, longing for that time when everything you hope for is finally in your hands.
Those feelings are tossed to the side inside the worried and frenetic walls of “The First Look.” As the synthesizer and guitar interplay moves faster and as Iman's wordless vocals descend upon the mix, it is as though the future is not everything it hinted it was. He brings it all home when he closes out the A-Side with the six-minute masterpiece, “Big Clouds.” This song is fucking raw. As with most of The Drawing of the Line, it was recorded to tape and sounds dense to the point of breaking. High-pitched synthesizer tones scream out as Iman comes to grips that even if things don't turn out as we planned, it will still be okay. The side-long “Plus One” is that acceptance realized. It is the ultimate pay-off for all that came before.
The Drawing of the Line is a devastating album that is the perfect introduction to Emuul's world of sound. Even if the future feels strange and confused right now, Iman is determined to find something beautiful in that uncertainty. That belief and apprehension is this sound.