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CD Feature/ Maninkari: "Art Des Poussieres”

img  Tobias

Until now, it didn’t seem as though Maninkari were interested in the beauty of small things. Instead, everything the French duo presented to the public was hugely ambitious, blown out of all proportions and accompanied by gargantuan gestures: Their debut EP contained two epic tracks remixed by the renowned likes of Scanner and Jesu. Their debut album was a double LP clocking in at almost two hours which saw the band sample, improvise and momentously force their way through arrangements that included atonal Piano clusters, tribal drumming, Jazz, Rock, World Music, the Middle Ages and the Avantgarde. To their label Conspiracy, they were simply a “high priority” and “the best thing to rise from the French ashes since what seems like forever”. 

In a way, therefore, “Art Des Poussieres” could be considered as a humble step back for the fearless Parisians. On the one hand, the album represents their first foray into the world of Vinyl.  Always at their strongest in the distant depths of their minutely layered arrangements, it is a format doing full justice to their evocative and moody concoction of mediaeval ambiances and sinister electronics. Then again, the scope and scale of the record is decidedly less spacious and stretched-out, less creatively megalomaniac and insane. It is as though Maninkari had decided to buy themselves a compass, navigating towards more familiar and attainable destinations, instead of steering their battered vessel through a cloud of unknowing, without certainty of resolution or reaching a safe port.

Opener “Flatus Vocis I” suggests an approach of thematic acceleration, making use of the kind of paranoid Violin pattern and pounding tribal Percussion which propelled the tracks of predecessor “Le Diable avec ses Chevaux”. It circles the artistic g-point much earlier, though, establishing a structured groove and reaching a climax at the four minute mark, whereas the hydraheaded pieces of their earlier releases would continue to simmer and burn. “An Ecstatic Sleep State” and “J'Apprecie La Certitude Avant De L'Atteindre”, meanwhile, dive into the Ambient side of the project to elevating effect, leaning on magnified bass undulations and surreally skewed melodies. They, too, eschew sinking in too deep: After the idea and concept of the track has been presented and tentatively developed, the music ends without much ado, gently smothered by resolute and definitive blows.

The real purpose behind this process of supposed miniaturisation becomes apparent only on the B-side. Carefully constructed tension archs build into frenzied torrents of brutish force, before calming down into cool crystals of hum and ice. Solo pieces for metallically resonating strings are accompanied by ghostly delay and figments of cathedral reverb. Suddenly, there is time for the music to unfold out of time, as if someone had stopped the clock while the band simply keeps on playing. And within this continuum, all ends suddenly connect and start making sense.

The more one is drawn in, the more it becomes apparent that “Art Des Poussieres” is not just an eclectic collection of sketches but needs to be savored in its entirety. The sensations of going through a transformational process and embarking on a journey have been imposed on the album as a whole like a translucent narrative dome.

Seen from this perspective, Maninkari have never sounded as coherent, conclusive and cohesive before. Combining recognizable elements into enticing new shapes and forms, they have created a gothically embellished sonic story replete with bewildering acoustic. Fans will breath a sigh of relief: They may have discovered the beauty of small things on this occasion, but in terms of building epic album concepts, Maninkari certainly show no intention whatsoever of taking a single step back.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Maninkari
Homepage: Conspiracy Records

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