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Slowburnblue (Director's Cut)


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"A re-release of sorts for Mangabros 'Slowburnblue', this 'director's cut' includes previously lost songs that were a part of the original vision of the work alongside newer, reworked versions of existing tracks, some now including Japanese vocalist Yikki Tong (last heard on the superb, Mangabros affiliated 'Craig and Yikki; Near-Death Flower' EP.) The band themselves describe the reasoning behind this extensive revision; ' 'Slowburnblue' v1.0 was released at the cusp of the millennium, a dark bubbling gumbo of an album, NME called it "electronic soup". It was a hazy sprawl of disintegrating data and layers of opiate noise. It was caught somewhere between bedroom geekdom and the dancefloor. Music for wallflowers, anyone? But the version was not as the mangabros intended. It was rushed by the record company of the time, and several songs were omitted'. Here then is the opportunity to hear the album as intended.

The conceptual piece opens with 'Test One', a robotic voice and electronic drone leading into Apex Twin style squelchy and glitchy percussion, not unlike an apocalyptic version of Radiohead's 'Kid A'. This is followed by 'Musical Chairs (Zoot Mix)', the heavily treated sound of accelerating engines merging with scratching and an ominous, cavernous electronic beat, Craig Manga's eerie vocals circling overhead. 'Weissm++ller' samples Johnny Weissmuller's Tarzan call to begin a spooked and nocturnal ride through empty city streets, like some twisted version of The Sopranos theme. Heavily reverberated surf guitars add a Twin Peaks air, this music is both utterly compulsive and pleasingly oppressive. 'Mondo Porno' flickers to life with electric piano, it's synthesized symphonics a perfect backdrop to Manga's emotive and anthemic vocals. There are definite shades musically here of Radiohead's post 'OK Computer' work, of the roster of Warp label and more than a hint of Mark Lanegan in the vocals, a winning combination which is quite unlike anything else yet feels instantly recognisable. 'Motorcycle Death Song' is an epic electronic slice of rock and roll, it's motorik beat, rockabilly intent and grizzled vocal reminding this listener of the dark theatrics of Foetus/ Wiseblood in his 'Motorslug' phase or The Young Gods around their 'L'eau Rouge' era. 'z (Ummm)'s treated, gnarled guitars and industrial rhythms layer and build before exploding into a glorious cacophony of electric noise and glitchy bleeps before the beat returns to hurtle further into the darkness. 'King Of Tarts' is a desolate piano piece, its theatrical vocal adding pathos and conviction whilst 'Reeperbahn' is a wistful torch song of sorts, both piano and drum building, ascending and drawing in tension as Manga adds another tale of a wasted life to the sorrowful story that is Slowburnblue. Next, 'Stoma' is a dramatic, candlelit howl into the shadows with cascading piano and Manga's voice the sole instruments save for a melancholy keyboard drone. 'Slowburnblue (Yikki Vocal Mix)' is dark electronica of the highest order, invoking both Massive Attack and Witchman with it's midnight beats and echoed, blackened trip hop feel.

'z (Drumless in Danzig)' is a disorientating, flanged slice of heart rending experimentalism whilst 'Black Guitar's feedback soaked groove is a gothic slow burner that bleeds atmosphere and dread. Fans of the afore mentioned JG Thirwell (Foetus) will adore this. '...drumless (Reprise)' is a piece of jet black ambience that floats sinisterly along on fragmented keyboard loops and is followed by 'A Line Of Tattoos', a Mark Lanegan-esque heartbreaker in which the piano virtually weeps across the speakers. 'Sequel Ate My Guitar' is utterly massive sounding, shimmering synths and bubbling electronic percussion underpinning Manga's baritone and bursts of frazzled guitar. For this listener this is a stand out track on an already hugely impressive and highly inventive release. A radically different version of 'Weissm++ller' follows, an evil sounding bassline snaking around Manga's demented Elvis vocals. Finally, '60 hertz' closes the album in an appropriately jagged and black hearted style, drones and waves of noise washing over skittering beats, closing the dark fable of 'Slowburnblue' as it was intended to be heard.

This is an incredibly creative and immersive piece of work. Mangabros have already delighted with their 2014 opus 'Soulcoalblack', now hear how these 'Ballardian psycho blues men' started their twisted traverse through the world's dark underbelly back in 2000, but hear it here as the artists intended it to sound. Dim the lights, enter another world and hold on tightly."

Grey Malkin - The Hare and the Moon (writing for 'The Active Listener')


released September 15, 2015



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