Bruce Soord’s musical output over the past several years–as a solo artist, in-demand mixer, and lead singer/songwriter of The Pineapple Thief–has been nothing short of staggering.

He’s managed to release new music each consecutive year for the better part of the a decade now, while also managing an ever-growing side-hustle of creating 5.1 surround sound & Dolby Atmos immersive mixes for ‘post-progressive’ contemporaries such as TesseracT, Katatonia, Opeth, and Riverside.

Even COVID-19 couldn’t slow his creative pulse, with the band’s planned tour for Versions Of The Truth (2020) supplemented by a fantastic live-in-the-studio set that would later be issued on Blu-Ray. The planned Versions tour did eventually take place throughout most of 2022.

In 2023 alone, he oversaw How Did We Find Our Way? 1999-2006–a massive reissue covering The Pineapple Thief’s early years, which took several years to curate–and delivered Dolby Atmos mixes of Katatonia’s Sky Void Of Stars, Haken’s Fauna, Jethro Tull’s RokFlote, and TesseracT’s War Of Being.

Pineapple Thief How Did We Find Our Way Dolby Atmos 5.1

In July 2022, Soord revealed to us that–despite his many other commitments–work was well underway into a third solo album, some aspects of which were composed/recorded with immersive reproduction in mind.

I'm working on a solo record right now. Funnily enough, you may have touched on something that I hadn’t consciously realized. When I’m starting to layer things up, I’ll think “Should I double the vocals? Should it be a stereo double? Or should I do backing vocals and stereo double those?” When you mix in surround and place the doubles in the rear, it feels like the vocalist is completely around you and I love that effect.

Though Soord is the frontman and main ‘creative force’ behind The Pineapple Thief, his solo work showcases a different side of his songwriting. In some ways these albums harken back to the earliest Pineapple Thief outings (such as 2000’s 137 and 2003’s Variations On A Dream) in which he was almost completely self-sufficient, simulating the sound of full band by use of a programmed rhythm section and densely-layered vocal harmonies.

Luminescence features some of Soord’s most beautiful compositions to date, accentuated by a brilliant six-piece string section recorded at London’s famous RAK studio. Much like 2019’s All This Will Be Yours, this is not a hard-rocking record. Those looking for the bombast of Pineapple Thief songs like “Alone At Sea” or “Tear Your Up” won’t find it here. 

Luminescence is available in a number of configurations including a three-disc deluxe edition, featuring a DVD with stereo & 5.1 surround sound mixes of both the main album and a full length ‘bonus’ album called Our Ship Sails At Dusk.

Bruce Soord Luminescence Dolby Atmos MKV IAA

This review concerns the Dolby Atmos mix of Luminescence, which is available exclusively in digital formats: immersive streaming on Apple Music, Tidal, and Amazon Music, as well as high-resolution Dolby TrueHD/Atmos MKV files on IAA’s online shop.

Immersive streaming is a great way to sample the album, but the new Dolby TrueHD/Atmos MKV files from IAA’s shop provide an infinitely more rewarding experience for audiophiles. 

Some of the more subtle time-based effects in the mix, such as the vocal reverbs and delays in the rear surround channels throughout “Olomouc” seem to expose limitations within the 768 kbps Dolby Digital Plus/JOC codec. As show in the short samples below (rear channels only), the detail and clarity is much better preserved with lossless Dolby TrueHD.

Dolby TrueHD (IAA Digital Download)

Dolby Digital+/JOC (Streaming)

This Dolby Atmos mix ranks among the most compelling uses of the immersive technology I’ve heard to date. It really does sound like the album was composed with the format in mind, rather than a 'retrofit' done after-the-fact. Soord makes masterful use of the ‘phantom’ spaces between the speakers, creating the eerie impression of being inside a dome-like space where the physical speakers seem to fade into the background.

Lead vocals are suspended between the front, side, and front height speakers, as if they’re floating right in front of your face. The drums also fill the space between the fronts & sides, while acoustic guitars extend upwards from the sides into the height array.

Bruce Soord Luminescence Dolby Atmos MKV IAA

The rear surround speakers are used sparingly but effectively, usually for the aforementioned orchestration-creating a greater sense of drama when those parts suddenly emerge. Backing vocals form a sort of ‘arc’ behind the listener’s head, appearing in the sides, rears, and rear heights. 

“Dear Life” opens the album with crisp, expansive acoustic guitars while layered vocals pop up all around the listening space. Soord then makes a pretty bold choice for “Lie Flat,” placing the synth drum almost entirely in top speakers. Bass comes thundering from the front stage, with reverberation and delays hitting off the back wall.

“Olomouc” begins with just acoustic guitar and Soord’s delicate vocals, before blossoming into full immersion with the layered strings and harmony vocals surrounding the listener. Similar to “Lie Flat,” “Never Ending Light” blends Soord’s acoustic sensibilities with some electronic elements to great effect. There’s even a fun bit of playful movement in this track, as the keyboard ‘pings’ bounce all around the room.

Acoustic guitar bursts from the center speaker with striking clarity in “Day Of All Days,” while its reverberation fills up the room. As with All This Will Be Yours, Soord adds a bit of a ‘musique concrete’ element to the album by incorporating recorded sounds–such as the car driving around at the end of “Lie Flat” or ambulance that kicks off “Nestle In.”

“Read To Me” brings things full circle by returning to the melody of “Dear Life,” albeit with some arrangement changes including a newly-added bass line. The closing track “Find Peace” ranks among my favorites on the album, again showcasing the soaring string lines and a passionate vocal from Soord. There’s a particularly great moment towards the end of this song where the sub-bass thuds upfront and its echoes swirl around the room, touching all speakers. 

Luminescence is a perfect rainy day or evening listen, especially in immersive audio. If you enjoy Soord's unique brand of melancholy mostly-acoustic rock with some experimental elements, then this is certainly another must-have release.

Purchase Luminescence in the IAA Shop!

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About the Author
Jonathan is an audio engineering enthusiast from New York with a passion for immersive audio, having amassed a formidable collection of multichannel optical discs and quadraphonic vinyl. He earned his undergraduate degree in Television-Radio from Ithaca College and Master's degree in Audio Technology from American University.