Man: Helping Hand
Sub Rosa

Having previously issued two instrumental albums (Man, Main Gauche) as well as numerous film soundtracks, Man duo François Rasim Biyikli (piano, Rhodes, melodica, guitars, noises) and Charles-Eric Charrier (acoustic bass, guitar, toys) bring a wealth of experience to Helping Hand. Certainly the mercurial opener challenges the listener hoping for an immediately clear grip on Man's persona. “You're For It” begins with an acidy techno-pop pulse accompanied by some lascivious ramblings and elegant piano before transforming—for moments only—into a churning groove. It's an anomalous piece, however, as the album soon gravitates towards an electroacoustic instrumental zone from which it rarely strays thereafter.

“Helping Hand” captures the contrasting tendencies within Man's sound, with someone bemusedly rolling furniture across the stage while a chamber ensemble rehearses a pretty glockenspiel and piano piece. Never rushing the material, Biyikli and Charrier leave ample space between the notes on the acoustic jazz-influenced “Drifting”; the slowly curdling rhythms of “Revenir” even sound like they're putting the two to sleep at times.

Still, the album's hardly a sleepy affair. Strangled guitars lend drama to “Farewell” while a richly textured base of whirrs and voices in the eleven-minute “8mm” becomes a springboard for prolonged bass and melodica musings. Even more dramatic is the ponderous “Separation” where gentle piano-based melancholia gradually morphs into a Godspeed-like howl of scarred guitar fuzz. Ultimately, the fact that Helping Hand defies easy categorization only accentuates the multi-faceted scope of Man's sound.

February 2006