[Chemical Imbalance; 2017]
With ‘Both Sides of the Cocoon’, Ross Manning shares a more pensive side to the clamorous unstrumentals of Brisbane/Melbourne avant pop group Sky Needle.
Where most critical discourse is levelled these days at the production feats of hyper definition Europe, Manning’s solo work is top heavy; his sonic collage nutted out well in advance of the record button. Manning is not the kind of audio collagist who needs any composing, or indeed finessing, in post. Overdubbing is hard to place other than beyond the realm of human possibility (yet even then I suspect he’s devised a workaround).
You’d be mistaken for thinking this is a Sky Needle record with all members present for a more hallucinatory session, such is the sense of real-time interplay between obscure percussion and otherworldly resonances. But instead the band’s musical philosophies have been recalibrated by Manning from the performative to the generative, with the chemistry of band members substituted for careful manipulation of algorithmic interplay.
I’m yet to see Manning’s live chain, but by all accounts it’s an ever-expanding retrofuturist assembly line – wood on metal on circuitry. Manning carefully selects a new family tree for each piece which, despite origins unknown, always seem to speak the same language. As such, each song on ‘Both Sides of the Cocoon’ reveals a new timeline of a city of antique apparatus springing to life then receding into twilight. It’s a bit too fiddly to label it sonambience, but I’m not going to put my name to something as self-congratulatory as post-sonambience (but if it takes off, you heard it hear first).
We’re lucky we live in a time where there is a good appetite for experimental music, fed largely by select publications and festivals whose popularity seems largely self-sustained without corporate intrigue. But this can also lend itself to a new stagnation, in which the previously indeterminate moniker begins to assume the genre tropes it is meant to shirk by definition and fork out into more determinate points of reference. (They are far from kicking the bucket, but there is certainly a vanguard of popular experimental music with their own distinct ‘sound’; Pan, Posh Isolation et al.) There are few people focussing on diversifying instrumentation over process and so devotedly, and its a forgotten tradition in the vain of Bertoia and Neubauten that deserves a long and healthy future.
Pick the record up from Chemical Imbalance.