Manik: Armies of the Night

Though why exactly Armies of the Night, Chris Manik's debut album under the MANIK moniker, was “stitched together” by Ovum Recordings' label boss Josh Wink isn't clear, but no matter. If anything, the twenty-five-year-old Queens native has the best possible person in his corner in Wink, as the label head also has his own best interests at heart in helping Manik fashion the album's material in as satisfying a manner as possible. A comic book-styled concept of sorts shadows the collection, namely a rendering of the underground gang world that was inspired by Manik's NYC surroundings and Walter Hill's 1979 film The Warriors, and its tracks do sometimes feel like they're coated in the grime of the urban jungle.

A brief intro featuring street people, subway clatter, and police sirens instantly lends the recording a gritty vibe before the low-down soul-funk of “Need Your Lovin” gets the album in gear, properly speaking. It's the first of many strong moments on the album, and speaks convincingly of Manik's comfortable command of his chosen genres. Here and elsewhere, an old-school—perhaps classic would be a better word—feel pervades the music, with the producer digging into a diverse number of styles—hip-hop, disco, funk, techno, and house for starters—with affection and sincerity, not to mention a striking level of command. Such eclecticism in this case doesn't register as indecisiveness or immaturity but more a natural outgrowth of Manik's love for a multitude of genres.

Scattered in amongst the album's seventeen tracks are a few mildly diverting interludes such as “Pipedreams – The Lost Mixtape Skit” and “Haterville – The Message (Interlude Skit)”; though they add contrast and colour, they're fundamentally stop-gaps between the album's standout cuts, infectious body-movers such as “City Kids” and “She's Slow Motion,” to name two. Silken strings, trippy vocal swirls, and slinky beatsmithing polish “Nightfall” to a smooth sheen, while “Lose My Mind (Album Edit),” a soulful and sometimes acidy excursion into deep house elevated by vocal samples and claps, captures the album's style at its best. “Ruckus 8OH8” pays homage to the jacking house sound of Chicago, “Kent Ave” drenches its feverish techno in ride cymbals and claps, and “Don't Stop Don't Run” rolls out a steamrolling techno banger replete with a ten-ton force. In terms of pacing, the release wisely eases the listener out with the sedate “The Way Home (Outro),” and the craft and sophistication of the album hardly suggest that Manik's first release appeared a little over a year ago.

May 2011