Manyfingers: Manyfingers

'Manyfingers' might seem like an odd moniker but, given that multi-instrumentalist Chris Cole single-handedly creates almost every sound you hear on this recording's seven tracks, it's entirely apt. Aided by some additional trumpet playing by Vic Le Billon, Cole plays Spanish guitar, drums, trumpet, xylophone, flute, piano, melodica, accordion, and cello. (The sole 'modern' element is reversed phase guitar which frankly sounds foreign in this context and might have been better incorporated to a lesser degree.) The very listing of the instrumentation should indicate that Manyfingers, the second release on The Remote Viewer's Moteer imprint, is no electronica outing at all but instead more of a folk-classical hybrid. It's largely acoustic music, and resembles the sound of a chamber octet playing through-composed compositions that have an Eastern European flavour, with their roots in the traditional musics of Romania or Greece. It's vaguely reminiscent of Eleni Karaindrou's ECM soundtrack recordings for Theo Angelopoulos's films (although her indelible melodic gifts exceed Cole's), and also calls to mind Björn Olsson's 1999 release Instrumental Music, where Olsson similarly painted a timeless sonic portrait using organs and guitars. Manyfingers begins ruminatively with “In a Dead Man's Shoes” and is then followed by “Ballybane,” apparently recorded live at The McCormack's in Ballybane, Ireland, where Cole's guitar does a convincing impersonation of a dulcimer or zither. While these introductory pieces successfully establish the mood and style, they're preludes to the album's peaks “Élise” and “A Room to Breathe In.” The dirge-like “Élise” features sparse piano lines and a truly haunting ascending-descending melody that recalls Ennio Morricone. In addition, its interweaving, funereal horns and strings are affectingly sombre. The wheezing accordions and cello in “A Room to Breathe In' naturally evoke Astor Piazzolla's 'nuevo tango,' but so too does the track's majestically mournful theme. Cole's sole misstep occurs in the closing “Grace in Rain” where the conventional drumming weakens the impact of the cello melody lines. In fact, “Grace in Rain” turns out to be the penultimate track as a 'hidden' coda's wistful qualities re-establish befittingly the general melancholy mood. Obviously, Manyfingers surprises on many levels. For one, Cole's presence on last year's The Mess You Made by Matt Elliot (ex-Third Eye Foundation) hardly suggested that his subsequent work would sound like this. Consequently, Manyfingers impresses as not only cinematic and mysterious, but unusual too.

March 2004