Compilations / Mixes
Swans Reflecting Elephants
Some electronic music producers seem to have a natural gift, one that's evident from the first moment their music appears. One such artist is Manuel Tur (Poker Flat, Ovum, Mule, Delusions Of Grandeur), whose expert second album Swans Reflecting Elephants establishes itself as a fully-rounded and cohesive statement from its very first go-round. The odd title? Tur apparently had surrealist painter Salvador Dali in mind and specifically his Swans Reflecting Elephants, which Tur was drawn to for its depiction of two radically contrasting species, an idea that he metaphorically incorporated into his album in its similar contrast between accessible sounds and abstract textures. The detail's interesting but not nearly as engaging as the album itself.
“Back To Me” proves to be a gorgeous scene-setter that seduces the listener with a warm, soulful groove whose electric piano and percussion shadings are rendered even more lustrous by the addition of a soft female voice that whispers and coos the song title. Things heat up dramatically in the subsequent cut, “Phantom Ride,” and grow rather more euphoric, too, when Liberace-styled piano tinklings and breathy female murmurings get overrun by a stampeding house pulse and flickering synth fire. The techno-driven mix of bass thunder, twisted vocal samples, see-sawing piano chords, and thumping drums finds “High Needs Low” swinging and shuffling with fierce determination. A crackle-drenched interlude of vocal exhalations and piano loops (“Mirrors”) offers a moment's respite from the album's largely uptempo vibe, after which “Obsidian” reinstates it with a primal rhythm-heavy workout whose propulsive synth-heavy sound calls Carl Craig to mind. The album receives a considerable boost from a smattering of vocal tracks, chief among them “Maybe Next Lifetime” where Blakkat's (Mark Bell) smooth and soulful croon makes for a supple complement to Tur's hard-grooving drum pattern and guitar-generated atmospherics. Tur isn't afraid to show off a more delicate side, either, as “Just Love” demonstrates in giving singer Elina Monova a dreamy backdrop to emote against.
But Swans Reflecting Elephants isn't perfect. The album's first half is admittedly stronger than its second, and not every track hits its mark either. The loping moodpiece “Serenity,” for example, spins its wheels for more than half of its six-minute running time and thus loses momentum in the process, and the second Blakkat track, “I'm Alive,” is the lesser of the two, with Tur this time opting for a blurry pulse as an elusive backing for the vocalist's abstract musings. Such lapses are rare, though, in what overall registers as an accomplished collection.