Released April 2017.
First commissioned by the French Government in 1981, the LP Rose Des Vents. Action Musicale evolved out of a six year project by Swiss composer Pierre Mariétan to document and musicalise the sound environment of urban landscapes within France, creating an inter-geographical auditory map of cities and townships located in the suburban reaches of Paris, including Bezons, Herblay, Montmagny and l’Isle Adam.
Through a mix of field recording, interviews, vegetable market catcalls, braying animals and urban hubbub, Mariétan paints a broad, psycho-acoustically vivid and decentralised profile of metropolitan life from the period; carried to the ear through a coupling with musical studio performance and serialist compositional technique. Over an hour and forty minutes, the recording provides an intersectional and ambient passage through environmental and urban narratives, the radiophonic voice of Ana de Carvalho offering fleeting, poetic orientation with announcements of each titled scene, divining and evoking the sonorous qualities of each landscape as it comes into focus. Each scene tangible yet non-specific, the artist arranging and signalling the possibility of civic and pastoral space as a musical container for spontaneous, sonorous interactions.
Mariétan’s profile is of a rigorous yet open and exploratory composer, utilising principles of chance and curiosity in organising found sound and often negotiating or encouraging encounters with improvisatory gesture or incidental and occurring sound. In 1966 he established the outfit GERM, grouping composers and musicians dedicated to developing new meeting points between composition and improvisation. Members assist in contributing recordings and performances throughout Rose Des Vents, including musical passages on piano, synthesizer, horn and saxophone. These studio pieces, played on saxophone by Daniel Kientzy or piano by Gerard Fremy, recall and redeploy techniques developed over the lifespan of the project, where site-specific actions and concerts were performed within each of the towns.
In many ways, the album is a folding of each facet of the author’s life and work into a single representative culmination. A sympathy towards radiophonic or documentary production values is recognisable—Mariétan produced two iterations of Rose Des Vents. Action Musical for Alain Trutat and Jean Tardieu’s ground-breaking Atelier De Création Radiophonique on Radio France Culture ahead of this LP release—alongside the influence of his work in urban acoustics and research into forms of sound ecology. So too is the obvious pleasure taken in introducing the sweetness of music to children, with notable samples from his educational workshops and sound installations helping to internalise and evoke a sense of inquisitive delight.
It's these components, combined with themes and concerns about the acoustic environment that resonate 30 years later and establish Rose Des Vents as such an approachable, listenable and lovely piece of experimental sound art. The conjuration of an emotional or psychological plane through musical and metaphorical synthesis allows the listener to situate themselves within the montage in a near cinematic manner, discovering an underlying sonority embedded in the psychic atmospheres of communal life.
Released May 2017.
Wild soundscapes from Benedict Drew, an artist splitting his time between installation art and music that hums and spills over with vivid material encounters; sounds are slurpy, runny, fizzy, spongy, hard as rock.
Following digital releases, a tape for patten’s Kaleidoscope label, a musical score to accompany his De Re Touch video art project commissioned by Transport for London's Art on the Underground, and many active years in London's experimental music scene through work with the London Musicians' Collective, as a solo performer, and via live collaborations with artists including Rhodri Davies, Chris Watson and Sachiko M; Crawling Through Tory Slime is Drew's debut long-playing record.
Music on each of the record's faces bleeds together continuously, recalling long improvisational sets, floor-sucking dub-wise, psychedelia, plunderphonics, and tight GRM-era electronic sound design pieced together with drum machines, cloudy synthesiser, bits n’ bobs. There’s a certain English charm, humour and taste for cheap science fiction and cobbled-together escape routes out of reality that follows a lineage set out by artists like Jeff Keen or Bruce Lacey, reset for the exciting horrors and delights of contemporary life.
Benedict Drew's solo exhibition The Trickle Down Syndrome runs from June to September at the Whitechapel Gallery, designed over the same period as the LP and "drawing on wide-ranging references, from the stage sets of classic Hollywood cinematographer Busby Berkeley to the Surrealist worlds of artist Max Ernst".
Released June 2018.
Alternatively banging and evasive, exhausted and unglued. Stepping along the rim of the silver screen. Diptera takes a near electro-acoustic approach to the DNA, texture and pressure of UK Garage with a debut release on Mana comprised of four tracks. Obsessively written over four years and teeming with material detail.
The duo's musical collaboration operates like a relay. Initial tracks made by Activist DJ — short sharp affairs focused on swung drums and darkside — are passed on to Wesley to be broken apart, tinkered with, and slowly refigured into more anxious and impressionistic musical forms, etched with intricacies and mixed fidelity. The result is a distinctive and resourceful excavation of hardcore at its most agile.
A fly on the wall may face some adversity, so if you imagine a human hand in basic swatting motion, maybe you will also couple the image with an evasive manoeuvre of some sort; usually there is a moment of hesitation where the human is unsure whether their aim was true. "Did I catch it?"
Released March 2018.
Gamelan and capoeira in dub. The collective behind this doesn’t like to talk much but their music is beautifully conversational. De Leon is the most organic and percussive of their shifting identities, developed on their Aught project in small-run, clear-shell cassette tape releases over the last few years.
They've appreciated a cult interest for their takes on outernational rhythm, field recording, and the tension and relief on the knife-edge of dance music; all delivered with an impressive commitment to anonymity and clarity of vision through cut-and-dried aesthetic minimalism.
These six pieces of music seem formed from wood, metal, air. Dramatic, balletic flourishes and tightly woven interlocking patterns are embedded in slowly changing and "live" atmospheres. The shadow of a hand over the mixing desk makes gradual adjustments to alter the pressure and dimension of the space.
A number of tracks first appeared on De Leon's set for Blowing Up The Workshop in February 2016.
Released August 2018.
Mana is pleased to finally present Pomegranates by Nicolas Jaar in its physical format as a double LP, with new mastering by D&M. The sleeve is designed by David Rudnick, with labels by Stéphane Jourdan and a new insert created by Jaar collaborator and friend Maziyar Pahlevan.
Longer and slower-releasing than his other albums, Pomegranates often parallels the cinematic epic on which it’s based (Նռան գույնը), with ideas pursued over long timelines and across dark landscapes, assembling elements and moods from the aesthetic and folkloric landscapes of Armenia. Jaar’s identity is perceived within this, folding in his heritage as Palestinian and Chilean as he attempts to build a musical architecture outwards that frames as much of the mess and sprawl of life as possible; using a language that investigates the movement and fluctuation of his own artistic career and character similarly to the film’s tracing of the coming of age of the young poet, Sayat-Nova.
At times, Pomegranates feels profoundly intimate, as though looking through the archive of a friend’s music and discovering the accent and common currency that lives within each of these tracks. Much of Jaar’s most elegant and touching melodic work is nestled here, its power residing in its simplicity and willingness to speak to the heart and not the mind of the listener.
In the text document included in the first freely distributed version of the album in 2015, Jaar writes that the album was conceived during a moment of change, and that the pomegranate became an icon that heralded that passage of time. The physical publication of Pomegranates closes one door whilst opening another, keeping promises and marking a significant point in the career of an artist who restlessly reinvents himself, with a document that illustrates a common language of lyricism, freedom, and emotional resonance that links his many paths and projects.
Released November 2018.
L’Escalier des Aveugles, or The Stairway of the Blind, was commissioned in November 1990 by Spanish National Radio (Radio Nacional de España). Asked for a piece to premiere as part of the European Day of Music, Luc Ferrari returned with a radiophonic concept that organised his anecdotal music into montage form, sequencing short, elusive narratives in a successive way.
The completed composition is formed of thirteen chapters containing a mixture of environmental and synthesised sound, commentary, chatter, and encounters with people and places. Each focuses on a small event within this playbook, and Ferrari notes that each “in addition to being a realistic photograph, will be the subject of a ‘setting to music’: fragments of voice and atmosphere will be sampled and will produce musical matter or a ‘song’.”
The sonic language of Madrid forms the setting to which Ferrari lays out the persistent theme of the piece, that of the composer being guided throughout the city by a young woman. Using a game-like structure (liners for this edition include Ferrari’s “Regles de Jeu”, or “Rules of the Game” which act as a script or score to the piece) the motivation is posed: imagine that one day you are told “I know a place in Madrid that sounds amazing (or bizarre)”, to which you reply “Let’s go to it together.” The recordings toy with the relationships between guide and tourist, translator, director and actress, and masculine and feminine that emerge as Ferrari and the actresses follow this action, documenting the shared experience and connections they make as they visit these places.
Six actresses guide Ferrari (and the listener) through locations simultaneously ordinary and sonically rich: the metro; the El Corte Inglés department store where we hear the gossip from changing rooms set against music emanating from the PA; vagabonds declaiming their political stance in the Conde de Barajas plaza; interactions buying apples in a market; the reverberant and spacious halls of the Prado Museum where one actress gives a moving description of her favourite painting - Goya’s The 3rd of May 1808.
Ferrari replies in French to their comments in Spanish, and there are several self-referential plots, devices, and word games that flirt with the poetics and rhythm of language and sound. A recital of Lorca’s poem "La Casada Infiel" in “Hommage À Lorca” in amongst the location recordings feels striking, and the call and response of “La Nouvelle de L’Escalier”, where one of the actresses descends the staircase of the blind - a long stone stairway in Madrid proposed to Ferrari as an interesting location to visit during the trip by producer José Iges. She replies to Ferrari’s vocal enunciation of the place (and title) in French - L’Escalier des Aveugles - with the place-name in Spanish: La Escalera de los Ciegos.
Using this repeated title and image of the staircase of the blind as a symbolic place, a line is drawn to a situational landscape experienced and diffused through snapshots and allusion rather than holistically overviewed, sound conjuring pictures within the imagination. In the sensorial qualities of Ferrari’s treatment of emotion and language—fortified with electro-acoustic motifs and musical properties—the piece accelerates towards a render that is truthful, beautiful, yet also surreal; somewhere between theatre and reality, a gonzo cinema of the ear.
Released October 2018.
O YAMA O explores a certain domestic and democratic quality of everyday life, born through associations to folk music of Japan and a folding of myth, tradition, and routine; the non-spectacular and the sublime.
Formed of musician and artist Rie Nakajima and Cafe OTO co-founder Keiko Yamamoto, the group has performed since 2014 at venues and festivals such as noshowspace, Ikon Gallery, Wysing Arts Centre, Supernormal, Borealis Festival, Mayhem, and allEars Festival.
Nakajima’s performance often focuses on the use of found and kinetic objects, using modest items such as rice bowls, toys, clockwork, balloons and small motors as instruments to create a “micro orchestra”. Elements are layered into impressive and immersive atmospheres. Yamamoto alternatively floats and charges through this with body and voice; chanting, incanting, thundering, whispering, stamping on the floor.
Their debut album consolidates their musical conversations into keenly paced studio music, the duo working with additional instrumentation and a resolved focus on melody to provide vivid portraits of folkloric Japan in song.
They move between pop and the philosophical, defined by the overall space afforded to texture and movement. In small, delicate sound an intimate musical climate is established that reflects on life, telling stories of improvised clockwork, whispered dreams, small movements of the hand and the rhythm to be found in the shuffle of a deck of cards.
Grandly theatric and dramatic flourishes add solidity to these illustrations, operas driven by the swooping energy and power of Yamamoto’s voice can be playful or emotionally charged, particularly when the duo arrange themselves in ensemble with violinist Billy Steiger and percussionist Marie Roux. Production by David Cunningham creates the shadowy presence of a leftfield Flying Lizards dubwise depth that adds subtle strangeness to the atmosphere. The result is something raw, full-bodied; full of energy, grace and mystery.
Released October 2019.
Rain, spit, ice, neon, mercury, arcing electricity, plants, steam, soil, and dust; this is dream music from Sa Pa. Following up on his 2015 debut 風物詩 [Fuubutsushi], In A Landscape provides rich content for fantasy and the fertile imagination, establishing a rich terrain of visual, poetic, and abstract sound that draws on techno and dub ambient.
Somewhere between pastoral impressionism and cyber-noir, its surface evokes the tensions of a fluctuating, fizzing atmosphere, pictures emerging and dissolving in the mind’s eye. Thick layers of field recording - some salvaged from a recorder lost in Bassiani during the police raid last year and recovered in January - flood tracks fabricated from erratic, oddly distanced rhythm.
The sensation whilst listening is not unlike hearing the world from a place within the body; swimming in the bloodstream, cutting through the turbulent landscape secure in a metal tube.
Or being over-exposed to lushly textured environments with the anatomy far receded; an out-of-body experience where subtler senses are heightened and the landscape begins to take on surreal qualities.
Released November 2019.
Cryptic, twilight emissions from Villalobos and Loderbauer; their synthetic compound of electronics and ouroboros jazz has walked from ECM and Perlon over to Mana.
Developing a sound that tends to drift along as otherworldly atmospheres and strange fusion, Vilod evade easy categorisation, even compared to Villalobos’ already experimental and genre-twisting solo minimal offerings. He and Loderbauer pull away the backbone inherent to the structure of that dance music, and The Clouds Know refines a deft and subtle musical noir built on ambient cues, sparks and claps of electricity, brushed drums, black voids and subterranean bass swoops. There's a twinkle in the eye and moments of deadpan levity, but the overall mood here is sober and introspective. Emotions run deep.
Through studio mastery and an enigmatic language the album forms a fascinating sonic and sensory work with few compromises. With erratic rhythms notably submerged—techno remains as an irregular pulse in the belly of the beast—fields of crisp, uncanny detail expand greatly. Humid environments appear, dense with the chatter of synthesised insects and the gentle rain of drums and whispering cymbals, enchanting the listener in focus or sublimating into layers of ambience depending on your disposition - and the quality of your stereo field.
Mana is a record label established in 2017 by Andrea Zarza, curator at the British Library Sound Archive, and Blowing Up The Workshop founder Matthew Kent.
Publishing works at the intersection of contemporary and archival sound, Mana is a platform redrawing narrative boundaries and perspectives through a playful, radical and unexpected email@example.com
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