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CD Feature/ Marc Manning & Yann Novak: "Pairings"

img  Tobias

It is a trivial artistic creed that once you’ve found your groove, you should never let go of it. This motto is held in even higher esteem by the protagonists of drone music, to whom change represents something of the aural equivalent of filing your tax return: You know it’s inevitable, but you’d like to postpone it for as long as you possibly can. Which is why it is all the more applaudable that Yann Novak and Marc Manning have opened themselves up to the tide of chaos, creating seams and ruptures instead of weaving webs into infinity.

Essentially an experiment in bridging the divide between the hands-on approach of instrumental performance and the occasionally bewildering abstractions of laptop electronics, the duo embarks on what at first appears to be a straight-forward ambient excursion. Two opening pieces built from electric guitar emissions are drawn-out tonal meditations of great stillness and the kind of stuff ideally suited for nocturnal listening sessions in silent bedrooms. Waves of harmonics well up and decay, pierced by occasional atonal frequencies, but generally remaining true to a core mood of agreeably dark hypnosis and peaceful stasis.

As the instrumental pairing moves towards acoustic guitar, however, so does the entire balance of the album. It is a subtle transition, yet a powerful one: The first time I listened to the record in the middle of the night, I was completely shaken by the sudden arrival of melody and harmony, Manning dictating gentle metaphors into Novak’s tape recorder, building cycles of tenderness from extremely minimal means. This game continues on a second piece, which takes on a more pensive and plaintive note, a crystalline, music-made moment of holding one’s breath and watching at the world in wonder.

In the final section, however, the tectonics shift once more, forcing the dronescapes to crack up and give way to the surreal noises and gigantic cavernous voids underneath. Placing bewilderingly unadjusted elements side by side and blending concrete and processed material as well as pitched tones and mere soundwork, the finale is one of amazement and confusion, rather than quiet majesty and overwhelming beauty.

The achievement of “Pairings” lies in the fact that it manages to continually deepen its ambiance as it progresses. It almost appears as though the duo regards these contrasts as necessary stepping stones to draw listeners in and as though mere continuity, to them, would risk loosing their audience altogether. It is a marked difference in aesthetics to the rest of the drone scene and their defiance turns the album into a work of experimental dimensions, instead of an obvious crowd-pleaser.

Manning and Novak have found a unique formula, which holds plenty of potential for the future. Now they’ve found their groove, it will be interesting how they intend to hold into it.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Yann Novak
Homepage: Dragon's Eye Recordings

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