Music Review: Mana – Creature

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[Hyperdub; 2017]

Rating: 3.5/5

Daniele Mana’s debut speaks with silence. Like his One Circle collaborator Lorenzo Senni, he cuts it with the stuttering build of trance lead or, like some of his new Hyperdub labelmates, with the tactile quake of sub bass. It lives as much in that silence as in those sharpened figures; his tracks feel variably like attempts to isolate and grab hold of an invisible tension. The sliding melody and siren-like flourishes of the opening “Fade” evokes the SOPHIE of Bipp/Elle, another artist with mastery over silence and sonic punctuation. Where “Crystalline” and “Sei Nove” contribute to the tense affectation of grime and dubstep, the ensuing three-track suite of “Runningman,” “Wetlife,” and “Rabbia” thwarts any attempt to figure Creature as bound in simplicity to some Hyperdub “tradition,” if there is one anymore. In a piercing coincidence of melody and percussion, the first of the three sounds almost of kin with Senni’s new “trance” 12-inch on Warp, while the short “Wetlife” softens its blows to those of a gentle, fast-decaying synth puff. “Rabbia” picks up in the same key, leading a stabbing arp into a slow, doppling state of deconstruction, veering somewhere into the compositional neighborhood of Oneohtrix Point Never.

Yet another gliding synth loops for “Uno E Solo,” about two minutes by itself before joined by pitch-affected vocals and sweeping bass. “Consolations,” the final track, is detuned and dirge-like, with plucked notes that hit like they’re trying to march in time down a steep hill. Though the frictionless slide of forms through its imaginary acoustic space could be figured cold and alien, Creature is, on the other hand, a gestural and conversational work, alluding to the patter of hands and feet and to the untempered melodies of the human voice. Compared to the music Mana released as Vaghe Stelle, most prominently a couple one-off releases for Nicolas Jaar’s OTHER PEOPLE and the album Sweet Sixteen, Creature is sparse, plain in its manner of address, and inclined toward strong and frequent climax. Where the tracks on Sweet Sixteen seem to conserve energy, striking a careful balance between incidental sampling and steady, bellowing reverb, this record does away with the ambience and brings all its characters to the foreground. Building them atop one another repeatedly in different directions, it progresses as if running through a long list of equally considered possibilities. It finds its own, broad sense of animation in the small movements of the many vectors, pointing from the stuffy atmospheres of trance and “bass” music off to infinity, gathering into skeletal assemblage.

Mana – Creature (HDB111) by Mana

Italian producer Mana announces debut Hyperdub EP Creature

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I really shouldn’t need to tell you how important it is for you to know every time a new artist gets added to the roster of Hyperdub — the Avengers/Justice League/Muppets Babies-all-rolled-into-one of electronic labels — because we all know. So, instead, I’m just going to let this one speak for itself: Italian composer and producer Daniele Mana, a.k.a. Vaghe Stelle, has announced his debut release for Hyperdub, an EP called Creature, under the moniker Mana. This very significant, crucial-for-you-to-know EP is out September 8, and you can pre-order digital and vinyl versions through Bandcamp.

So what’s this thing all about? Perhaps this press release copy is just what you need: “On Creature, over eight tracks, [Mana] ingests Shostakovitch, Drexciya, Darkthrone, Frank Ocean, and Paul Lansky, and refashions them into an almost operatic record — a rich melodrama of dark tension and excitable in-your-face synth melodies.” That should tip you off to just how paramount it is that you are aware of this new Hyperdub signing. Now, I won’t exactly say your life depends on it, but your credibility as an early adopter at the forefront of the electronic music underground very well might.

To help you wrap your mind around this, Hyperdub has shared the first track from Creature, “Crystalline,” but you’d already know that if you’d been refreshing your SoundCloud stream constantly like a real connoisseur would. If you’ve fallen behind, though, that’s okay; you can listen to the track below and check the full EP tracklisting while you’re at it. But do it quickly; I can already see your reputation draining from your body!

Creature tracklisting:

01. Fade
02. Crystalline
03. Sei Nove
04. Runningman
05. Wetlife
06. Rabbia
07. Uno E Solo
08. Consolations