Mana ERG
~review by Mick Mercer

Some forms of music baffle me more than others, which is obviously a good thing, but also frustrating. Composers of dark, twisting music frequently take from dance as they also batter seven bells out of boundless electronic possibilities, which inevitably confounds the listener, as you bring your own expectations and preferences into direct collision with what you are hearing. Bits will excite, others entice and much will leave you wondering why on Earth something is happening in a certain fashion.

Is it relevant to expect an opening track to set out the artistic stall and hint at what is to come? ‘Bother’ shakes some of the Middle Eastern and Asian percussive slivers about that you find a lot of Industrial artists using but throws them against solid beats, and oblique vocals suddenly shove in a touch of the novella. Call it compatible with a less commercial Chemical Brothers, with commendably blazing guitar, and notice how much of the rhythmical shifts are similar to popular Fetish club fare. Bruno has a great voice, being the scalding man, frequently offset by Deborah Roberts having a beautiful voice. Preposterous pop antics are shape-shifting throughout ‘Wasps’ but with dark doldrums landing arising to hamper your expectations. And so it goes on, with exemplary performance, and mystifying intentions. What could be a massive dance record, with striking rock strata, turns sideways and constantly folds in on itself. Flashes of musical thunder enliven ‘The Lynx’ with bass and piano touches, and ‘Cunctis Diebus’ may be some antique musical piece, but here it sounds all squashy with its soft d’n’b pulsing after the Ethereal angle seems set to rule the roost.

‘Angel Of Chaos’ appears soft until a submarine-type sonar pingggg keeps you perplexed, with metallic beats and sweet vocals going head to head. ‘Target’ has gently distressed cyber kitsch, with shuddering vocals. ‘Novi Mir’ sees weird noises gathering, then whumpp, Bruno snarls a la Lydon, but all too briefly, and although this is a surging bastard of a song, like Lamb meets Art Of Noise, is that slap bass? Lordy! ‘Burning Fields’ seems like abstract tinkering, then ‘Children Of The Rubble’ finds Roberts being sly in another song which could have been lethal gets bleepy and bloodshot..

The rhythms are robust and the textures tough. It has sinister lyrics, politely conveyed, and when it’s musically pretty it’s usually being totally deceptive and setting you up for a nasty shock. Honestly, I found it hard to maintain attention indoors, because so many of the tracks get into a rhythm, twist back and become something else, then revert, slow down, get heavier, and fade out. Outdoors with the walkman it’s completely different: frequently arresting, and vibrantly adventurous. 

So make of that what you will.