Monday, 2 August 2010
Mantler - Monody (Tomlab)
Mantler is the musical alter-ego of Chris A.Cummings, a Canadian who enjoys playing with genre, taking his unique efforts on a joyride through the realms of electronica, R&B and funk. ‘Monody’ is his fourth record, an attempt at dense, lush pop arrangements that transcend time and stereotype and eventually settle in the deep, dark artistic recess of your conscience. In poetry, a monody is a lament over another’s death, a sad and lonely description of a record. In music terminology, a monody is a single melodic line; not quite an appetising depiction of an album either. Cummings has stated that the record title is meant to be a mixture of these two meanings, a sad, singular melodical journey, though amidst the melancholy there is something gorgeous
A velvety vocal velour coats the whole record in a big warm hug, allowing the listener to sink into the sofa whilst ‘Monody’ plays out. At times, he reminds me of a modern Todd Rundgren, master of 1970s low key pop that slots into a soundtrack to evoke a certain sentiment so swiftly and effortlessly. ‘Childman’, for example, sails by on a cushion of synth and faux horn, ending on a wonderfully unruffled winding down of instrumentation. Everything here is modern easy listening, which is either a positive or a negative, depending on your viewpoint on easy listening. Personally, I love a good dose of relaxation in my music every now and again; something soulful to soak into the pores.
Delicacy is a key word in the piano that sprinkles itself throughout the record, acting as a sonically supple backbone to the array of percussion (a charming assortment of shaking is prevalent on a selection of tracks), vocal layers and electronica that come and go throughout the record. This is the kind of music that makes me feel modern pop is simply lacking, throwing up overproduced beats, wholly derivative and digitised melodies and heartless vocals, lyrics and presentation.
Once in a while, Mantler pushes the boat out in terms of funk and beat, knocking it up a notch to grind out something with a little more hip swinging capability. ‘Fresh and Fair’ begins with a generous heap of glitchy glimmers which quickly delve into a slow burning, head bopping tune. ‘In Stride’, the penultimate track, stands out as an embodiment of such frosted funk (I claim copyright on this new genre name), from the casual ambiance through to the aloof and airy percussive tapping underlining the song.
It is difficult to call this whole thing sexy because of the clinical atmosphere it generates and the awkward indie fumbling that stumbles through the lyrics, vocals and long, meandering electronic rambles. Nonetheless, it comes off, eventually, as an off cut of some highly sexualized 1970s experiment from a Prince backing singer. And it just about has that lusty, laid-back nonchalance that ensures an extended stay on any jukebox, especially when you are bringing that cute girl from the club back to yours for a glass of red wine and a spot of smooth seventies seduction (rotating bed optional).
Words : Adam Parker