Manual: Memory and Matter: Selected Remixes, Rarities and Unreleased Tracks 2007-2014

As a musician, Jonas Munk enjoys a most enviable position: on the one hand, he's able to unleash his wilder side as the guitarist in Causa Sui, while on the other his Manual persona provides a solo outlet for a more controlled and somewhat ambient-styled mode of artistic production. It wouldn't be stretching things too far to see the one as Munk the bold expressionist and the other Munk the painterly impressionist. It's the latter persona, of course, that's documented on this latest Darla collection, which presents a comprehensive account of the Manual music he's issued since 2007. With the double-CD release featuring both remixes for other artists and rarities (nine of the nineteen tracks previously unreleased), Memory and Matter—the title lifted from the book of the same name by French philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941)—provides an in-depth portrait of recent Manual output.

The remixes are typically concise song-structured pieces that often include female vocals and are built up in epic manner by Munk with expansive ambient treatments and guitar textures. Up first, Sourin's “Nagi” works itself into a dynamic, shoegaze-buzzing lather, while the serenading “Dressed in Black” by Blue Foundation (featuring Sara Savery) locates itself firmly within Cocteau Twins and Siouxsie Sioux territories. The soulful vocal that so dramatically elevates Annie Barker's Robin Guthrie-produced “Cruel” is wrapped by Munk in a dense symphonic swirl of guitars and synthetics, after which the instrumental “The Invention of Steel” by Danish quartet Salli Lunn shifts the focus from vocal-based shoegaze to guitar-driven post-rock. The disc's prettiest moment arrives in the form of Caroline's “Sleep,” a delicate reverie rendered memorable by the beauty of her singing. Munk disrupts the predictability of the remix disc by inserting three Manual originals—luscious instrumental settings that place guitar atmospherics at the forefront—in amongst the makeovers. The most notable of the three, “Camellia,” closes disc one with a soothing, seventeen-minute meditation whose placid character Munk bolsters with insistent repetitions of hypnotic guitar phrases and vocal murmurs.

The second disc, comprised of nine slow-moving instrumentals generated primarily from processed guitars, is Manual at its most pure and unadulterated. Lovely moments are plentiful, among them the stirring “Carrapateira,” wistful “Farther Away,” and “Fields,” a lulling, long-form collaboration with Auburn Lull's Jason Kolb that exudes an Evening Star kind of calm. Munk's guitar sound is lustrous throughput, and he executes the oft-subdued settings with a delicate hand. Brooding and reflective in tone, the disc's material feels very much of a piece, and if it lacks the stylistic variety of the remix half, the reason why it does so should be obvious. Memory and Matter is, as mentioned earlier, comprehensive, and at an utra-generous 117 minutes a lot to absorb. Certainly no listener will come away from it feeling shortchanged or, for that matter, unclear about the kind of Manual music Munk's been involved in creating over the past seven years.

November 2014