Music Reviews

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Artist: Mana ERG (@)
Title: The Blind Watchmaker
Format: CD
Label: Glyptique (division of A.P.D.R.A.M.A./Organic) (@)
Rated: *****
Mana ERG's brand new "The Blind Watchmaker" (out June 15th, on a sub-division of one of France's best electronic music outlets) is the fifth release by Bruno De Angelis (after three tapes in the ninetees and the mini CD "Borderliners", 2002). Although the name is most definitely italian, I believe he lives in the UK, from where he has been producing music for this new release with illustrious guests and collaborators, including: Russian Electroshock records label-owner and electro-acoustic musician Artemiy Artemiev; German ex-Kluster pioneering ambient/techno artist Dieter Moebius; Musica Secreta and The Tallis Scholars renaissance music ensemble soprano singer Deborah Roberts; ex-Scorn & ex-Lull member and Metamorphic Journeyman magazine publisher Antony Burnham, a.k.a. Antonym; didgeridoo player and Oltre il Suono webzine creator Nihm; and Attrition's mastermind Martin Bowes, who mastered this record. So now that we know that there's definitely lots of brain behind all of this, let's deal with what really counts: the music of Mana ERG is hard to describe and hard to file; it covers many grounds and finds its strenght in rare qualities such as dynamism and eclecticism. "The Blind Watchmaker"'s multifaceted production extends from electronic to dark, in a journey that encompasses so many genres and influences that it's hard to even keep track of your own mood and state of mind as you are violently pulled through its smooth soundscapes. The overall sort of "noir" approach brings that nice ill and sinister halo to the table, and you'll definitely recognize influences of early NIN (in particular think of Reznor doing his nasty and dirty slow pieces with piano or guitar loops, much rather than him screaming away over walls of distortion) when the atmospheres get cloudy and slow or when Bruno's collaborators Joe Erber (piano/guitar) and Tiberio (guitar) add their touch to the ill-lighten suites. The addition of d'n'b breaks and other sophisticated rhythmical figures might remind you of Apell, some older Eno productions and definitely some late Clock DVA. Young Gods-type sonorities are ready to take off on the wings of buttered IDM loops that wouldn't look out of place in some Boards of Canada/Autechre or other Warp artist's album (probably thanks to the aid of DJ/producer Lee Stacey). Brusaschetto/Mudcake-like gentle noise-making gives the album that rough edge, and even though most corners are rounded off, you'll always feel the scratchy surface underneath the hovering layers of sounds. Of course Bowes' presence is not a coincidence, as Mana ERG definitely looks up to the sound of Attrition or of similar bands such as Die Form. Bastard, Legendary Pink Dots, Visions of Excess, Kapotte Muziek, Ivan Iusco/Nightmare Lodge are some of the other bands that populated my mind while going through these tracks... Utlimately the electronic texturing of the record really shows great attitude and consciousness and builds intense statements and ballsy presence on minimalist structures that convey great sense of musicianship. It's such a diverse recording you'll have to listen to it many many times to even get a grasp of its complexity, which is great considering how basic the instrumental approach is. I have been listening to this for a few days now and if I didn't have to move on to the next batch in the pile, I'd probably keep going to appreciate all of the shadows and shades of its wide palette and array of sonics. Great record.