Manaboo: Unhuh
Steadfast Records

On Unhuh, the prolific Brendon Moeller—his Snowblower EP under the Echologist name was reviewed only a month ago—partners with Shigeru Tanabu for a half-hour four-tracker under the Manaboo moniker. Old friends, the two met in New York in 2003 and commenced jamming soon after (Tanabu's playing has graced a number of Moeller's Beat Pharmacy tracks). The duo's richly textured EP draws upon techno and house but pulls jazz and dub into its orbit too.

The title track blossoms like a Japanese flower as radiant pads rise and fall over a laid-back pulse that grooves deliciously. Anything but minimal, the track finds Moeller and Tanabu electrifying the material with a bright piano motif, soulful voice accents, percussive colour, and synthetic flourishes. Submersive in the best possible way, the oceanic dub-techno of “Utopia” is as blissful as the title suggests, especially when Manaboo coats the track's double-time hi-hat pattern with hazy chords that echo and ricochet with an easeful elasticity.

“Morpheen” may be a tad more uptempo and driving compared to the cuts on side A, but Manaboo invests the tune with just as much texture and atmosphere. The track definitely grooves hard, with a jazzy opening (abetted by piano chords and a serpentine saxophone figure) that gives quickly way to a funkier attack that digs deep. Speaking of sax, “Blutrane” pays homage to Coltrane with a snappy plunge into the dubby twilight that includes a hard-to-decipher sample that very well may be the tenor master himself pontificating on his ‘sheets of sound' style.

As noted, Moeller may be prolific but Unhuh—despite the throwaway title—is anything but slapdash; the four pieces evidence a level of detail that reveals the mark of a dedicated producer. An entire album's worth of such finely crafted material would hardly be unwelcome.

March 2010