manual Drowned In Light (CD, £9.75)label: Make Mine Music
While completely unknown in his native Denmark, Munk is considered an influential artist in the circles of dreampop and electronica, touring all over the world, and collaborating with artists such as Ulrich Schnauss, Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins), Auburn Lull and, perhaps more surprisingly, members of Tortoise and Sunburned Hand of the Man. Aside from collaborations, two minimalist ambient albums and a rarities collection from 2007, “Drowned In Light” is the first Manual album in five years. On this latest album, drum machine loops and shimmering guitars (electric, acoustic, 12-string and flamenco) are bathed in analogue synth and modular effects, creating a lush, intoxicating sound that looks back to the 1970s and 1980s without a hint of the usual sleek irony or hip retro-revivalism, whilst simultaneously looking forward to a time when boundaries between programmed and played, and synthetic and organic, become obsolete. The family tree of “Drowned In Light” begins with Harmonia, Ash Ra Tempel and Ennio Morricone in the 1970s, Durutti Column and Cocteau Twins in the 1980s, through to Seefeel and Slowdive in the 1990s. Manual continues this lineage and pushes into new territories. A prime example is “Biarritz”, where analogue synth sequences that could belong in a Tangerine Dream excursion blend with elements of modern electronica, exotica and echoes of 80s’ synth pop. In a similar fashion “Phainomenon” rolls along like a mid-70s Ash Ra Tempel jam until halfway, where the mood breaks and the track enters classic dreampop territory, leading to a dizzying climax. “Blood Run” and “Afterimages”, meanwhile, arguably possess some of Munk’s finest guitar playing, whilst “Pulsations” is, without doubt, the most cosmic, distorted and swirling psychedelic moment in the Manual catalogue. In some ways “Drowned In Light” reaches back to the early Manual days of “Ascend”, a result of Munk’s rediscovered love of working with analogue gear. It is a diverse set, though, bound together by a warm, crystalline production and Munk’s signature guitar playing. Composition and craftsmanship on this level is such a rarity in an overcrowded sea of electronic music.
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