Maninkari: Phantasmes
Three:four Records

Based in Bathyscaphe, Maninkari, the French duo of Oliver and Frederic Charlot, specializes in instrumental moodscaping and projects involving soundtrack composing. Having previously created scores for two short films, Simone Massi's Des nuages au bout des doigts and Dan Salzmann's Call baker, the brothers now provide a forty-minute soundtrack to Thomas Pantalacci's Phantasmes, a fifty-minute experimental film somewhere pitched between ”dream and reality, fantasy and eroticism, awakening and sleep.” In simplest terms, the film's narrative concerns a lonely and adrift man who after fantasizing about a woman he sees in a movie theatre becomes so obsessed he begins experiencing apparitions and other assorted reality breaks.

The opening side immediately establishes a mood of tension and portent when a lilting percussive flow is joined by string scrapes, but the mood turns noticeably more disturbing when a woman's hushed breathing and woozy pitch-bending surface thereafter. A combination of improvisation and original composition, Maninkari's music-making becomes a veritable film unto itself when its dissonant creep is so capable of manifesting a kind of understated and unearthly dread through sound alone. Electronic atmospheres, primal percussion, stabbing cross-currents of strings, ethereal wordless choirs, swirling cimbalom patterns, processed piano, nightmarish real-world noises (footsteps, traffic)—all such elements emerge within a soundtrack that in its haunted sonorities at certain moments exudes a Ligeti-esque quality. And though the comparison is a familiar one at this stage, it's hard to resist drawing a connecting line from Phantasmes to the surreal worlds conjured by David Lynch in works such as Eraserhead and Twin Peaks.

In keeping with the free-floating and dream-like character of the film, the soundtrack eschews track titles, such that even though its two halves contain multiple pieces, the parts extend without interruption across the two vinyl sides. Though the material is attractively presented in a twelve-inch vinyl format and provocative colour sleeve, Phantasmes is best experienced via headphones as the closest possible listen allows for the subtleties of Maninkari's sound design to be heard most vividly and consequently better appreciated.

July 2013