That said, here's something of a review..., or a rambled rumination - on Manna and Quail's upcoming release, Smile Sweetly, Say Good Morning:
Since their early days through 2005 and 2006, Manna and Quail have always had a certain intensity – inhabiting the heavily-melodic/slightly atmospheric regions of pop music. Their music had a bit of healthy melodrama and was thick with pedal-pushed fuzz, atmospheric reverb walls, dreamy star-twinkled pianos that could avalanche into pounded storms. Singer Steve Saputo’s vocals have developed into that same wilting flower catharsis of a Jeff Buckley, burned but hopeful, yet still carrying the wide-eyed innocence of ho-hum McCartney-esque docility.
Smile Sweetly, Say Good Morning is filled with illustrious frills of 60’s Brit pop, (the title takes my mind to song titles by the Rolling Stones, Beatles and the Pretty Things), but it’s shaped to emphasize a singer/songwriter sensibility with lyrics that tug at the heartstrings. It’s not all hook-heavy pop, the soundscape is given head-swimming effect by the lush instrumentation as bolstered by the fuzzy pedals and tightly locked rhythms. SM,SGM’s admirable point is utilizing sparseness. It has a measured intensity, well aware that all cylinders do not need to be firing at once to create a swooning ballad. Coming on even stronger is the swirling bass groove ("The Layman’s Heart"), that sultry-yet-druggy guitar line, the hazy fuzz furls ("The Western Calamity"). It’s the blend of stately and guttural; with atmospheric guitar shreds that can quickly slide down into these hard chugging ("She’s So Heavy"-reaching) scrawls. It explores a strange storybook-gothic-pop as inflected with the character of the British-indie/classic pop revival of the mid 90’s. Grand, yes, but also given that murk and mystery of a dark folk that doesn’t mind leaning in for a few dips of Krautrock-esque experimentalism.
The whirled, nocturnal walkmen-striding heartbreakers like "Progress, Plans and Promises," and the space-rock tinged "Where oh Where" reveal the true heart of Manna and Quail – and its worn brazenly on the sleeve, with a twinkled tear-filled eye that’s still making sense of what it’s seeing. Philosophic, romantic and a burning catharsis through every pore with buzzsaw guitars balanced by serene pianos.
Manna and Quail release Smile Sweetly, Say Good Morning this month –joining Deastro, The Silent Years and the Summer Pledge for a gigantic quad-release show at the Crofoot, June 5.
More info here: www.myspace.com/mannaandquail
That said, here's another bit of a review for an upcoming album by guitarist Sir Richard Bishop - The Freak of Araby (Drag City)
Sir Richard Bishop is well known for his Indian/North-African flavored solo work on improvisational guitar – blending folk, gypsy and traditional Middle Eastern styles. On Freak of Araby (Drag City), he is backed by an accompanying band. The groove of a steady bass, the tribal thump of drums and tables, the shimmer of tambourines, all throbbing under Bishop’s hypnotically whined undulations that burn like blurry heatwave stares off toward the Kasbah, from the heart of the desert. As many reviews will note, just the sound of these Mid-East flavored shimmies make your ankles and toes burn with the feel of hot sand, it makes your brow sweat and your armpits swampy. A hard-grooving summer record, mystic, warbled, wandering and filled to the brim with Bishop’s transfixing knotty finger-work. It also features finely interpreted classical works from key references/influences like Mohammed Abdel Wahab, the Rahbani Brothers, Farid Al-Atrache. Dig the tight, hooky, potential pop ballad of "Enta Omri," the tabla drum circle breakdown of "Solenzara" nicely metered by an almost surf-toned sway on guitar. Fantastic eastern interpretations, homegrown from the Phoenix-based-Bishop, The Freak of Araby is out this week on Drag City.
And, all that being said, one last random P.S.-
Check out an interview with fractured-Broadway-folk-pop quartet Cryptacize – I conducted for Tiny Mix Tapes - here
Read about their latest album, Mythomania, about new Broadway hijinks, Steven Spielberg, and pissing off the neighbors.
(photo: John Ringhofer)