Albums of the Decade: Manual – Until Tomorrow (Morr Music, 2001)


The debut record of Jonas Munk is one for the young, a brief snapshot of youthful energy and angst arced over 45 minutes of scuzzy, lo-fi, yet brilliantly earnest Indietronica. Unlike many of his later, more refined records that would sun themselves in languid Ambient and Downtempo with nary a care in the world, this primordial material feels edgy and emotionally terse, lost in its own self-interests and concerned almost totally in its own resolution.

When I was first introduced to Until Tomorrow it was a turbulent time for me, moving from school to university, coming to terms with growing up and developing independence and not knowing what even the immediate future would hold. It seemed I’d found a counterpart in this already decade old record, and more than 5 years on it continues to be a source of emotional security.

Until Tomorrow finds itself trapped between days, its mind and melodies split between the desire for optimism in tomorrow, and the ghosts of yesterday’s strife. Although opener “Nova” doesn’t exactly explode into violent life, its crinkles and crackles arrive like blistered flotsam in the aftermath of some youthfully torturous event. Its drum machine patters set themselves into erratic and unpredictable rhythms in their wake, setting a pace for our churning thoughts in the moments to come.

Manual pushes to quickly quell the past at first, perhaps too hurriedly; “Velvet Sunset” is almost sickly sweet in its deeply rich crooning drones, glittering glitch and faded guitar twangs, overcompensating whilst still in the raw early moments. But its self-assuredness continues unabated as it tones things down for “It’ll Be Fine”, choosing to take the more mature route as it picks out its path going forwards in sinuous and skittering tones, breathing with xylophonic naivety and youth that’s innocent and flexible enough to adapt to temporary emotional discomfort. There’s so often more good times than there are bad afterall, as “Frequently” slowly assuages in its hesitant piano that carefully strengthens with soft guitar noodlings and densified drums, quenching the intermittent woes with regular love and light.

As our insomniac introspections trickle on we begin to feel the night settle around us, sleep tugging at the edges of our eyes in “Fortnights”. Guitar reductions and hovering drones leave us with a little breathing room at last, a lull in thought that seems grateful in the break from expectations and pressures, hinting at personal growth only in its last bright moments before it runs into the confident swagger of penultimate “Baja Nights”. Sun baked guitars croon effortlessly as the drum machine bounces along, melody just melting before us, regrets finally precipitating out as dawn touches the horizon.

Which leaves only “Tomorrow”. Its lessons learned, it proceeds not with optimism now but a sense of mature and informed acceptance of the future ahead of it, willing to embrace all the speedbumps and probable discomfort in its tired but languid guitar warblings, those jittery IDM beats that so dictated its insecurities turned aside at its conclusion as it steps into the future a day older and wiser.