Manual - Ascend
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Manual
Ascend

At the grand age of 20 years, Jonas Munk Jensen already has 4 releases under his belt and shows no sign of slowing down. As Manual, he released a debut EP on the small label Danish Hobby Industries, before dropping a full-length on Morr entitled Until Tomorrow. As a member of the post rock/electronic band Limp, he also contributed to the recent album Orion, which also came out on Morr. Ascend is his sophomore proper album, and as the title suggests, it's a subtle, uplifting album that finds him hitting a stride as an artist.

Mixing cut-up laptop electronics with touches of analog keyboards and sampled 'real' instruments like guitar, he's created 8 tracks and just over 40 minutes of music that makes you feel just a bit woozy. It works best in those hours right before bed, and as the opening track of "Midnight Is Where The Day Begins," it's suitable for laying on the back and counting stars or simply sitting inside and letting yourself sway off a bit.

It's the aforementioned opening track that is actually one of the best tracks on the entire release, building up with some filtered guitar sounds alongside plenty of glitchy electronic sounds. Eventually, the keyboards swirl in and the guitar comes a bit more into the foreground (even as dry twangs of more guitar layer in the background), culminating in a beautiful crescendo that's part Fennesz and part Ennio Morricone. "Astoria" follows up strong, with a mid-tempo track that mixes some clicky beats and light melodies that would melt the heart of a Boards Of Canada fan, while "Out For The Summer" goes into drifting territory, mixing spacey drones of disembodied voices with some more guitars and plenty of shimmery keyboards.

If none of the first tracks on the disc hooked you, then the middle one-two of "Cassy" and "The Distance" should. The former drifts along slowly for the first two-thirds, throwing in a piano melody and some other sounds over a quiet rhythm. Everything comes together after a short pause, though and again come together in a big way as a chunky beat rumbles for awhile and a distorted keyboard replays the earlier melody. "The Distance" again brings back some of those twangy guitar tones while electronic blips gurgle and sputter before again building into a lovely release.

While "A.M." really fails to do anything, at two minutes it's nothing that drags on for too long, while the closing tracks of the album again find a nice balance in mixing cut-up organic samples and electronic production. The final track "Keeps Coming Back" ends things in an especially nice way, slowly adding subtle elements until the dense finale. If I lived closer to a beach, I'd pop this in my headphones and walk along with the water hitting my feet as the sun went down or came up. It'd be the perfect soundtrack.

rating: 7.7510
Aaron Coleman 2003-06-19 00:00:00