Album Review: IcanthearwhattheyresayingbutIthinkIgetit by Mani

At this juncture in music history, another three-piece experimental rock band feels like just a drop in the bucket; how varied can the music generated from a three-person line up really get? Are there any innovations left to be discovered in our main rock ingredients: percussion, bass, guitar, and vocals? I understand your skepticism. But, as it turns out, we haven’t yet seen it all; Mani is one of those bands who are here to remind us that recombining the tried and true with some new seasoning can yield a tasty dish.

This Macon/Atlanta based group has been around for a couple years now. Their newest album, released this past August, IcanthearwhattheyresayingbutIthinkIgetit, is rife with the kind of chemistry that only comes from confident musical relationships. Along an eight-song meander, we follow Zach Farr, Steven Ledbetter, and Matt Boone (later replaced by Clark Bush playing live) as they construct a cohesive soundscape by combining and intertwining singular parts.

Mani-15.jpg

It’s worth noting that Zach Farr, the visionary behind much of this project, drew upon inspiration from a dream to find the album’s voice. It is also worth noting that the exact release date was the 21st of August, coinciding with the continental United State’s last eclipse. Little wonder that a kind of sonorific dream logic plays such a prominent role in the recounting of each song. As with dreams, the music is challenging without becoming needlessly esoteric, defying the listener to make sense of the nonsensical while remaining accessible, and even eerily familiar. We hear this best in the band’s celebration of some of the more obscure genres of music: chewy polyrhythms a la gamelan, mechanical drones for noise and texture, and sound experimentation that would make Frank Zappa proud.

The music itself veers from minimalist to psychedelic stream-of-consciousness-improvisation-like interludes. Dissonance textures are sprinkled over more conventional melodic lines. There is often a hint of the industrial, weighing heavier on the noise side, behind that fresh, folk-face. We hear sound elements spanning the gamut, from singing bowls to the whirring of something mechanical to rocks. What is interesting, however, isn’t this band’s use of ‘unusual sounds’ so much as their ability to make them not sound unusual. Every effect helps build the story of this dreamscape. Every ‘thunk’, ‘fmmp’, and ‘bwong’ is a layer in the stratigraphy of this musical reality.

All in all, IcanthearwhattheyresayingbutIthinkIgetit is not easy listening. It is active and wants audience participation without obnoxiously demanding it. It is defiant of old structure while remaining respectful to tradition. If this is a taste of things to come for Mani, we can expect some interesting flavors.

Mani will be playing Friday, April 27 at the Bakery Atlanta in West Atlanta as part of the Erec-Ki-Gala performance, along with LONER. Tickets are $7 and doors open at 8 pm.