Nektarios Manaras: Hovering
In the sleeve notes to Pastures, Melbourne, Australia-based Tim Bass expresses perplexity and mystification over the world's instability, how all of the patterns he devises to make sense of it don't ever seem to truly fit. Perhaps, then, his thirty-minute mini-album (in an edition of 100 handmade and numbered CD-Rs) represents his attempt to mark out an aural space over which he can exercise control and bring things to a state of stability and resolution. To do so, Bass uses processed electric guitar, synthesizer, and field recordings (nature and train sounds from his Lilydale hometown) to generate five immersive soundscapes whose soft swirls and placid drift induce a state of reflective calm in the listener.
A sense of wonderment pervades the softly swelling “Eris,” its pure sonic character a contrast to the outdoor nature sounds that introduce “Smoke Plume Expanding” before ceding the spotlight to hazy tones that do, in fact, seem to suggest the graceful, slow-motion unfurl of smoke plumes. The guitar lends “Idle Thoughts Gravitate Toward Lonliness” [sic] a subtle crystalline beauty, even though the instrument's sound merges almost indistinguishably into the gently floating mass, and there are moments during “Stutter” and “Onward From Nowhere” (train noises a natural part of the latter) when Bass's material could be mistaken for Celer's. Though neither Pastures itself nor Bass's overall approach to music-making is sui generis, the album is nonetheless a satisfyingly realized example of understated ambient soundscaping, the kind of recording that would feel just as much at home on Hibernate and Home Normal as Flaming Pines.
Nektarios Manaras's Hovering is the diametric opposite to Pastures in a number of ways. Whereas Bass's recording obsessively fixates on a singular style, Manaras's debut release (also issued in an edition of 100 handmade and numbered CD-Rs) dramatically explores a broad landscape of instrumental sounds and genres. In contrast to the inward-looking approach of Bass's recording, Manaras's is expansive, with the Chalkis, Greece-based multi-instrumentalist credited with guitars, flugelhorn, electronics, keyboard, and percussion, and assorted guests contributing piano, bowed glass, drums, and sax to the forty-one-minute set.
Electronic and acoustic sounds intermingle comfortably throughout, the music in certain moments ambient-electronic in nature (e.g., the closing “Escaping the Orbit”) and elsewhere jazz-like, especially when Manaras's foggy flugelhorn bleats alongside a stuttering electronics array during “Sei in a Dive.” A strong post-rock flavour also seeps into “Floating in Anything” when Manaras's guitar riffing and horn playing receives support from Vaggelis Varis's drumming. Drawing inspiration from specific places and phenomena, Manaras uses exotic dashes of electronics and percussion to evoke the rock pillar complex of monasteries in “Three Sketches of Meteora,” while the trippy “Anemone Dance” receives a significant rhythmic boost from the inclusion of Varis's udu and Zenjungle's sax playing. Each of the six pieces adds something different and unexpected to the recording, which helps make Hovering a consistently stimulating listen.