Although he hasn't released anything under the name Manual since the sun-drenched Azure Vista a couple years ago, Jonas Munk has certainly kept himself busy making music. In addition to playing playing guitars and adding vocals and a variety of other instrumentation to the krauty, rock-oriented group Causa Sui, he added electronics and beats to the recent album by Rumskib and has done some random production and remixing work here and there. Those hoping for something new will be both excited and perhaps a bit let down by Lost Days, Open Skies And Streaming Tides, as it collects b-side, compilation, unreleased, and otherwise unheard music onto a twenty-track, 2CD effort that combines his more highly-detailed, beat-oriented work with a slew of his more blissed-out ambient pieces.
Of course, calling some of his work blissed-out is pretty much a misnomer, as just about all of his recent work is seriously heady, with layered washes of filtered guitars mingling with analogue synths and (sometimes) crisp beat programming to create lush stews of sound. Although he's a relatively young artist, Munk seems to refer to a serious sense of nostalgia with his songs as Manual, with both musical and song (and album) title references that seem to link up directly with the 80s era.
The first disc of the set focuses in on his more micro-programmed work, with work that recalls Until Tomorrow, Ascend, and even Azure Vista. It's a little bit more song-oriented, with loads of dreamy, shoe-gazer style guitars, synth washes, and busy, almost glitchy beats. Some of the highlights include his cover of Nick Drake's "Black Eyed Dog "with Marie Louise Munch on vocals and the great "A Real America," which stacks everything he does so well into a massive, swirling piece that unfolds in lovely ways. Given his style, it's really not surprising that his collaboration with Robin Guthrie on the sparkling "Marbella" sounds fairly similar to his own pieces, mixing warm guitar melodies into soft builds that pay off quietly.
The second disc goes completely ambient, and is much closer in scope to his The North Shore release with Jess Kahr as it explores long passages of layered synth and sometimes guitar. It starts out really strong, with the the twenty-two minute "The River" sounding something like a gooey Stars Of The Lid track, while "April Trees Daydream" is a short piece that takes a darker route, with what sounds like droned-out chanted-style filtered vocals and more heady washes. The last few tracks on the release really tale off in quality, sounding more like the out-takes one might expect on a release of this nature.
The biggest knock on Lost Days, Open Skies And Streaming Tides is the near uniformity of the songs contained within. Munk has a palette that he has certainly gotten comfortable with, and doesn't really stray at all from those sounds. In terms of overall quality, his actual album releases contain the superior songs, and while this set certainly isn't a big batch of rejects, it's probably more for hardcore fans who want to complete their collection of his work.