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.
Released June 2020.
Released September 2020.
Four new chapters from Nicolás Jaar in Telas.
Here, again, it’s the odder and more essence-like devotion to sound that is semi-narrative, ambient, and concrète that we heard and were drawn to in Pomegranates. Telas gestures towards a more refined tone, with less sudden shifts and vignettes, incrementally shaping an hour of self-reflective music with tracks building and collapsing across its vinyl sides.
When Telas was first drafted and presented to Mana it felt appropriate to mention a sense of monastic retreat. Where Pomegranates often felt epic-like in its scope and shifting scales, this album conveys images of quieter moments spent tending to a vegetable patch within a cloistered garden, perhaps, or the threading of a tapestry with filigree. Nicolás often moves slowly and deliberately throughout, focused on manipulating gauzy fibres and room tone or fluttering around other cryptic actors, so that when bursts of clarity and emotion appear they take on a deeper character.
There’s a greater sense of contemplation and patience in the album’s logic, and a feeling of this ambient work having been divined and moderated from a growing constellation of art, melody, and sound being developed by the artist. In relationship with sister-album Cenizas and surface qualities of recent Against All Logic material it feels that there’s a centre being defined and meditated upon.
Telas was made between December 2016 and January 2020.
Special thanks to Somnath Bhatt (art), Susanna Gonzo (voice), Milena Punzi (cello), Heba Kadry (mastering), Abeera Kamran (website), Mario Zorio & Anna Ippolito custom instruments), Andrea Zarza & Matthew Kent (Mana) and Mark Byrne (Other People)
Released March 2022.
Somewhere between ambient, soundtrack, and an audio play. The tragicomedy and melancholy of a halted art project and a restless mind turning in on itself; as daydreams, farce, and the surreal transform into a blue and beautiful narrative.
“In January, 2018, I travelled to Lithuania. I was staying in a small wooden cabin in the middle of a forest and was there to photograph all 3000 sculptures in the nearby Devil Museum. The project was funded by the Mondriaan Fund but two months earlier I’d lent the entire budget (8,000€) to my friend, Martin. He’d just gotten a new job at Rainbow Solutions. I’m not sure what they did but they'd given him a company car with a huge sunroof and a big rainbow printed on the bonnet.
Over the following four weeks in Lithuania I kept an audio diary and recorded sounds in and around my cabin. I met no one and spoke about meeting no one. I remembered Crow Man and the time I sold my mum a kilo of scallops. I listened to the door hinge and I recorded the river, with its small islands of ice brushing up against the banks like a pulse. It’s a nice word, ‘pulse’; the motion of an artery as blood is driven through it by the heart.
The Devil Museum is an audio drama made up from these recordings. It’s scored with original compositions by Kareem Lotfy and was put together and mixed in collaboration with Jacob Oostra.”
Released February 2022.
“Puzzle Music is the desire to create images out of diverse pieces of sound. To collect timbral colours in a gradient procession and connect them until they create reason. Principally not knowing how the image will turn out, or what the picture even is. It is the act of placing sound shapes next to one another in the hope that clarity will gradually be revealed.
When grouping the songs together I was thinking of them as mechanisms in a timepiece. I have something of an obsession with Swiss watchmaking, although I think this stems from a desire for creative mastery and the design of an energy source independent of electronic needs. Hopefully the songs all serve a purpose towards the end goal of the album... but also, the way the Oberheim Xpander pans sounds is in a very clear circular pattern, which makes me think of gears turning.”
Interior sounds from Madalyn in an album that flits between eerie ambience, environment, and hermetic logic. The music’s timing and sequencing feels distant, the elegant constructions conjured and organised semi-consciously, drawing the listener deeper into the dream and towards a zone where watch hands tick forward accurately and their perception of time unspools. Here each neatly tuned conversation and clockwork assemblage harmonises, spinning tantalisingly just out of range and understanding.
Released December 2021.
Uwalmassa shape their relationship with various forms of musical heritage into technical and stylish forms on Malar, marrying acoustic sonics with a contemporary outlook that reflects their Indonesian identity; evolving, mutating, and scavenging traditions to draw parallels to dance music, and to test the adaptability and flexibility of those sounds.
Here the collective go dark and deep in their first album-length collaboration with Mana, casting long shadows and moving snake style at speed across nine tracks. Using a mix of synthetic and acoustic instruments - the texture of Malar feels enigmatic, occasionally industrial, and the result magical in its mystery and fluctuating impact.
Uwalmassa is the name with which DIVISI62, arts & music collective from Jakarta, Indonesia, perform and produce music.
Released August 2022.
Swooping, sub-heavy sci-fi from Riz Maslen. Leda Maar is a new moniker for the established artist who’s released a crop of downtempo and electronic music as Neotropic and Small Fish With Spine, as well as collaborated with the likes of Future Sound of London, filmmaker Andrew Kötting, and featured in PSP-era Grand Theft Auto soundtracks.
Mana’s long lasting love of Riz’s 1996 Laundrophonic EP, released under her Neotropic name, spurred this new release. That 12” was a deep and dark web of rhythm and ghostly urban found sound that one Discogs reviewer aptly named “coin-slot Dubstep”. With elements mostly sourced from tape recordings made in and of her local laundromat, it still stands out as a remarkably contemporary feeling work; more like a post-Fisher, post-hauntology observation of urban life from the last decade, taking the ambient temperature and undercurrent pressures of the 90s. Asking if she had anything in continuity with this slice of her discography, and describing our interest in her take on “space and bass”, Maslen returned to us with Stairway 13.
Heavy-lidded and ethereal in long form, the album’s balance of bass weight, mechanical metre, and darkly tinted new age feels like a cinematic re-approach to some of the textures, moods, and themes of Laundrophonic. Originally designed for an installation, Stairway 13 folds in her decades’ experience in sound design and theatre, along with shards and elements abstracted from her more recent folk-like music, zoning into a deep, retreated, altogether dreamlike and expansive atmosphere. The scale and soundscape is reminiscent of Geinoh Yamashirogumi and their Ecophony album series, resonating to similar frequencies and exploring themes of chaos and re-birth in feature-length form.
Stairway 13’s four parts spread and swoop as single extended sides across this double LP. Carried by waves of sub bass and heavenly chorus, and later punctuated with autonomic clicks of machinery, whirrs, and pulses - sometimes reminiscent of FSOL’s weirder and more clipped staccato sampling in sections of their cyberpunk ISDN - the work forms a gothic, otherworldly ambience. A subtle space opera.
Released September 2022.
Big or profound sensations from small gestures which are carefully arranged. Using a mixture of sacred and profane, or classical and prosaic sound sources, knitted into intricate, fleet-footed compositions that virtually spring into the ear. Profondo Rosa is composer Ailin Grad’s first vinyl album following years embedded and loved in the Argentinian experimental music scene, with past treats on labels Krut, Sun Ark, Orange Milk Records and her own label Abyss, devoted to ‘connecting Latin Juke with the world’.
There’s a playfulness at the heart of Profondo Rosa that’s immediately charming, with a sense of scale and spatialisation in the sounds being toyed with, exploring the strange pleasures and satisfaction in her approach to delightful and fresh feeling sound design. Aylu is known to be as likely to deploy the sound of a finger click, a fizzy drink being cracked open, or a fly buzzing past the ear, as she is drawn to sampling gorgeous strings or instrumentation. Her debut album for Mana constantly builds territories that tug at your heartstrings and then have you grinning five seconds later. This versatility and acceleration has often resulted in her music being compared to footwork, alongside collaboration with other producers experimenting in that sphere; in 2017 she and Foodman put together a dizzying hour of sounds for NTS.
Her miniaturisation of rhythm and ringtone-like sample size could also bring to mind SND circa their warmer softer glitch Tenderlove phase, or perhaps the approach that Teenage Engineering take to designing tools for music making. Each are deriving pleasure from small and satisfying shapes, as well as advocating an object-oriented philosophy and minimalisation in their work that sidesteps a draining of colour. Sound is fun, and in Profondo Rosa it sounds like Aylu has that at the forefront of her mind.
Her hyperreal sound and its link to the languages of electroacoustic or computer music are clear, but she outmanoeuvres many of the overly-academic and formless examples of those genres. Profondo Rosa’s skeletal assembly of objects becomes tunes in an elegant, almost understated way; tactile elements quickly combine and roll into deeper and persuasively emotional places. These compositions give off an air of being very free, very experimental, despite being meticulously artful and studied arrangements on precise and nimble coordinates.
Released May 2022.
Combining steppy dance music, lush detail and a diaristic tone, Jack Chrysalis’ debut album dials between music that is destined to catch the ear of the club-goer and the heart of the dreamer, his signature propulsive mutations of organic techno and UK garage sounding strongly in tracks like Another Year and Coldharbour.
Between these, Chrysalis threads in more introspective moments. Tracks formed by running a hand along piano keys in improvisation, or made in recollection of Koji Kondo’s clear bright musical palette for Zelda. They lend a sense of atmosphere and a deeper running mood to the album’s overworld, heightening endorphin hits from the garage swing and affording a little more bittersweetness to its textures and secrets.
Whether in rush or retreat, each track on this album emerges with its own emotional resonance. There’s a sense of seasons turning, or a twilight quality that’s hard to fully pin down. “Owl music” became shorthand for Jack’s tunes, a way for Mana to capture a prescient, nocturnal flight within their environment.
Released June 2023.
“Composed during one of London's endless dark and locked down winters, Fever Dreams is a fantastical, speculative take on high density living. From dark, mouldy rooms, subterranean depths, symbiosis and multi-species entanglements, it cloaks itself in the claustrophobia, excitement and despair of living in a metropolis. It is a work which both celebrates and fears the weeds, spores, vermin and grime of London. The dark fantasies, frustrations, and utopian aspirations of its urban survivors. Frozen plastic bags, cramped living quarters, the kindness of strangers, the desperate unfairness of who gets what and when. Almost getting there but not quite. Being overcome by emotion for no reason. Unexpectedly moved, inexplicably destroyed. The never still, forever unfolding moments which comprise living on top of each other. Sinking and swimming; together/apart.”
A smouldering, sunken sound from Kate Carr on her album for Mana, exploring a latent and inward pressure from a mix of field recordings; gongs; underwater reverberations; flickers of static and electricity; found reel-to-reel choral recordings, played forward and backward. The result is a gothic dub and dark ambience that hangs heavily in the air, a narrative of middle spaces and dense environments where noise and muffled secrets bleed through the thin plasterboard from the next room over.
Texturally and emotionally it's a potent mix of insulated hope and gritty reality, holding a microphone to space and sound that the mind might otherwise blot out. Multi-species, metal, organic, and digital, dirty, self-built gathering ground, with towering verticals, deep subterranean depths, and gritty layers of lived-in grime, watery and terrestrial, human and non-human pressed together.
Released April 2023.
De Leon returns to Mana, following their 2018 LP, offering a suite of new material that adds further waypoints to the map of their cryptic soundworld, deepening and expanding the direction of travel they began within the Aught collective.
The dual legacies of Javanese gamelan and minimalist composition remain clear touchstones on this second, untitled album, which employs architectures of repetition and microtonality and evokes the musical heritage of the Bay Area whilst folding in the arid landscapes of Tucson, Arizona, where its compositions were conceived in part.
Featuring a broad vocabulary of source material, notably Daniel Schmidt’s gamelan at Mills College and the spherical gongs on the album’s cover, combined with a homespun collection of prepared instruments and faint vapors of synthesis, De Leon crafts a distinct signature sound that evades alignment with conventions of academic composition and contemporary electronica but nods to both as it carves out its unique direction of travel.
This album inscribes itself into a tradition of works that enable listeners to perceive deeper valences of time and psychedelic aesthetics of scale. Percussion and metallophones fluctuate within the virtual space of the recording and the sounds avoid stasis, rather undulating restlessly or flickering in and out of perception in a manner consistent with the mercurial sensibilities of their early De Leon recordings.
Written and produced by De Leon. Contains recordings made by Lucas Deleon Turner, Stephen Parris, and Patrick Lidell. Additional production by Geoff Saba. Thanks to Jeff Evans and Gene Joseph.
Released August 2023.
Sublime ethereal minimalism from Hiroyuki Onogawa on this retrospective compilation album for Mana, the first dedicated release and remaster of his soundtrack compositions.
The album August in the Water: Music for Film 1995-2005 plots a decade of Onogawa’s compositions for films by the renowned filmmaker Gakuryū Ishii (formally known as Sogo Ishii). Ishii’s left-field and trailblazing cinema has proven highly influential - Crazy Thunder Road (1980) is frequently cited as the starting pistol for the Japanese cyberpunk genre - and unfathomably difficult to source outside of Japan. This, coupled with the mysterious and artistic nature of the films, has seen him build a cult-like following. Most of his oeuvre remains undistributed outside Japan, though Third Window Films has recently taken great strides toward making some titles available internationally.
This retrospective publication, sequenced into an album by Onogawa himself, spans a fertile period of collaboration with Ishii, through soundtracks for three remarkable films: August in the Water (1995), Labyrinth of Dreams (1997), and Mirrored Mind (2005). Each feels texturally and sensually linked with the spiritual, ambient, dreamlike quality that lingers in Onogawa’s music.
The sound Onogawa conjures for these films is elegant and patient, often minimal or essential in form, but saturated in a poetic emotion and atmosphere that feels strange and otherworldly, touched by the metaphysical in subtle ways. Boundaries are crossed between New Age and science fiction, locating a blissfulness, melancholy and paranoia within the same spectrum, and moving toward an enchanting sense of mood and colour.
It’s notable that the compositions on this album straddle the millennium, and the mix of divine and uncertain themes in the music carry that currency. New listeners might hear links to Mark Snow’s compositional work for the X-Files and Millennium, or other celebrated future-facing and future-fearing Japanese anime or cyberpunk.
Onogawa’s music adds great depth and tenor to the sensory experience of the films themselves, but it stands just as strongly as a listening experience on its own terms, a virtuosic example of ambient that changes in hue when turned in the light. Remarkably, and in similar circumstances to Ishii, Onogawa’s work has never been widely available outside of (always highly enthusiastic) underground fan posts, usually sourced from extremely limited and private CDs limited to Japan. This retrospective seeks to remedy that, and hopes to achieve recognition for Onogawa as one of the great composers of the last three decades.
Onogawa continues to work in film, both in the creation of soundtracks, and now as a producer and director. He composed the music for Koji Fukada’s Harmonium (2016), which won the Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard section at the Cannes Film Festival, as well as for Fukada’s A Girl Missing (2019). As a director, he received the Grand Prize for Best Short Film in the Noves Visions category at the Sitges Festival in 2022 for Flashback Before Death (Guu), co-directed with Rii Ishihara.
This release includes liner notes specially commissioned by writer Tony Rayns, and words by Gakuryū Ishii.
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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.
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