Jonas Munk – Absorb/Fabric/Cascade (El Paraiso, 2015)


I’ve stopped coming to have expectations going in to any Jonas Munk record; every album under his beloved Manual alias is a different and quixotic affair, ranging from the heady heights of Shoegazing Dream Pop to soft fluffy expanses of Drone, whilst collaborating with artists like Ulrich Schnauss and others has allowed him to traverse IDM and Progressive Electronic, and at no point in this rather large discography has he ever stood still or succumbed to resting on his laurels and regurgitated old content or styles. Absorb/Fabric/Cascade is no exception and may be one of his most ambitious and experimental records to date, drifting ever further from his roots but admittedly still drawing from the experience that’s driven him this far; it’s not so far removed as to be unrecognisable but it is a curious record.

“Absorb” is the first to break the 3 year silence; comprised of three seemingly discrete movements it opens on introductory synth arpeggios and an underlying drone current to provide the backbone to the track, create the vessel for the track to move within. These compelling polyrhythms and repetitions ease back and fade into the background somewhat after their stint in the limelight, their initial importance subjugated in favour of more exploratory and experimental motions in the bleary and casual cruise in the heart of the piece, the brain adapting to its texturally complex environment and drifting of for a time in languid introspection. But the final five minutes gains some more traction again as the idiosyncratic synths first impressions begin to circle round again, this time assisted by luxuriously dense guitar drone chuggings that fall off into the void, faint electronic bleepings allowed to be heard through the roaring silence of the distant synth drone as the change fades away.

“Fabric” is perhaps the more demanding of the three pieces in my eyes; comprised largely of two out-of-phase faux-organs that slowly rotate and dance around one another it feels a lot more rooted and visceral than the more ethereal and intangible sequences of the opener, but due to its extremely elongate evolution and very measured delivery in order to create this more physical construction it can feel a little tiresome at times. That being said as we begin to find the edges of its finite presence things begin to get more interesting, as the closing moments see a brief rush of humming electronica and flurried pianos in what was an imperceptible rise in the pace of the track to round things off.

With “Fabric” out of the way it’s time for the finalé and what can only be described as the breakout piece here; finally using its elongate, 12 minute span to create an evocative atmosphere we begin with tentative, slow, thin synth lines that float out of the creeping darkness that shrouds the closer, like hesitant droplets of sound caught on the breeze. Eventually reality begins to catch up with them and the tumult that comes with it; huge masses of that same chugging guitar drone arrive to blacken the sky and douse us in precipitate, ready to swallow us whole as we find ourselves surrounded and overwhelmed by the Earth’s lifeblood. And yet it doesn’t feel as dark as it suggested at the start, quickly turning into a shimmery and almost warm affair towards the end as the Sun is hinted towards in its latter moments, peeking through the now-spent clouds to usher in its warmth and sustaining light again.

It’s funny, the album almost feels like it’s been put together back to front; the cascade happening at the end and absorption occurring at the beginning doesn’t quite seem to fit right. It’s a pretty odd affair all round though; there is something not quite consistent about its presentation across the board and while Munk returns with his typical analogue synths it sort of feels like they don’t really match the mood at times, giving the album a confusing warmth and hopeful quality that seems almost at odds with the atmospheres that he’s trying to produce. Maybe it’s just because I’m still yearning for a new, decent Manual release but this is a little take it or leave it for me; interesting and compelling when the mood strikes but a little decoherent and ignorable when it isn’t.