To cut a long story short involving temporary releases, compilations and different band names, Manes are from Trondheim in Norway and thoroughly impressed me with their creative album “Be All End All” (2014).
The trick lies in the moods and atmospheres of this essentially experimental progressive fare. “Endetidstegn” (Symbol of the End of Time) is soft and pleasant to listen to, yet it is haunting and disturbing even. My attention was drawn and the immediate world was shut out. The electro-thumping trip hop beat leads us into the melancholic “Scion”. There is a kaleidoscope of sounds vying for attention. They all fuse into a wispy haze. The singer’s voice contrasts with all this. There is urgency about it. It reminds me of Peter Gabriel and the lead singer from Kingcrow. The song spreads its wings colourfully like a flower blooming. The drum and surrounding sounds add expanse to the song.
Trying to categorise all this is nigh impossible, as this so-called “artistic collective” simply won’t adhere to a single style. As trip hop mixes with rock and electronica, the haunting clouds build up until we’re floating on top of it. It’s unusual and it’s dark. With the dark electronic and programmed elements, it’s cosmic and gripping. The disturbing nature recalls to me Atrox, with whom unsurprisingly there are connections. I hear mania in the vocals but dark shadowy bowie-esque touches and just dark shadowy touches. We’re sitting on an immensely creative and thoughtful wave, but one, which penetrates the mind. These songs are irresistible. “Last Resort” starts sadly but this isn’t mindless, self-pitying sadness: the sweeping development, backed by the constant guitar rhythm, creates a beautiful air of devastation which expands and intensifies over this seven minutes of musical magic. This song is powerful. As “Chemical Heritage” was cosmic, “Last Resort” is infectiously human. But with Manes it’s about implanting ideas and images, and the distorted and woozy “Poison Enough for Everyone” is more like a hallucinatory bad dream, with distant, echoey vocals and harsh tribal beats. “Building the Ship of Theseus” has the distant melancholy of “Last Resort”. There is lushness in the guitar work. Perhaps my expectations had become too high because this one doesn’t send the dagger through the heart like other songs had. Yet it has the familiar shadowy and edgy touch. Normal eccentricity is resumed as dark tones mix with programmed cosmic tripping. The dark voice of “Night Vision” is pure Bowie. The atmosphere is creepy and sinister. Manes overlay sound upon sound to intensify the vision. Cosmic interference initiates “Ater”. It is disturbed and bordering on insanity. We all go insane together seems to be the invitation.
As a title “Slow Motion Death Sequence” probably covers it, except that it’s far too prosaic a description for such an unusual and evocative album. This album isn’t just unusual or experimental for its own sake, but draws us in magnetically through its waves of sounds and emotions to be part of its sad, shadowy and sinister world.
(9/10 Andrew Doherty)