Article by KevW
The turn of the century can be looked at as a time when the word "experimental" perhaps meant more than it does now in terms of the music world. Sampling and production-based music had been around for a long time, but when the public became bored of listening to lads with guitars, the UK alternative music scene appeared to open up and allow people who were really pushing boundaries in that area to get genuine attention. Squarepusher, Aphex Twin, DJ Shadow and many others were winning more coverage than was perhaps expected. People wanted something genuinely new. It was in 2000 that MANGABROS released 'Slowburnblue', but this new 'Director's Cut' includes twice as many tracks as the initial release, and so it can almost be looked at as a new album. Even though you know these tracks are fifteen years old, they still sound cutting-edge, innovative and futuristic.
From the opening robotic voice that ushers in '(test one)' it becomes fairly clear this isn't going to be an easy listen, but it could be an incredibly interesting one. The sparse, skeletal electronic beats and bloops feel cold and unwelcoming. Almost challenging even. But this record is a real patchwork of ideas; it's schizophrenic, nocturnal, industrial, warped and confusing, but that's the whole point. Often Kafkaesque, 'Slowburnblue' plays tricks with your mind, and often seems as though it doesn't know where it's going to turn next anymore than you do. The ten-minute plus 'Musical Chairs [Zoot Mix]' switches from dubby, almost danceable beats to more hectic drum and bass as it continues, with an eerie voice hiding somewhere in the darkness. The heavy, trip-hop influenced 'Weissmuller' (which presumably, because of the vocal cry at the start and the lyrics, is named after Johnny Weissmuller, famed for playing Tarzan) is more conventional (ish), but it's still spooky and has the same mysterious vocal lurking in the mix, although 'Weissmuller [Club Sonic Scat Mix]' is a touch lighter in tone and not unlike something Unkle, or even Primal Scream at their most experimental, may have come up with.
'Mondo Porno' maybe takes this lightness a little further with the introduction of piano, and a slightly gravelly vocal is this time pushed more to the front, sounding a little like a drunken Tom Waits with more soul. The title may suggest something erotic, but the just plain lewd backing to 'King Of Tarts (Pink Bordello Piano Version)' is far more likely to be handed a radio ban, and it shows that growling voice getting louder as the album goes on, and the sad but oddly pretty 'Reeperbahn' reflects this even more. However, this trend is broken by the surprisingly lovely, female-led 'Stoma (Jade Manga Vocal Mix)'. It doesn't take long for the strange and unsettling to reappear though, and the entire album is peppered with ideas that seem to have formed themselves rather than been made by human hands. 'Black Guitar (t's vibrating bed mix)' is atmospheric and could be called dreamlike, but only if the dream is a nightmare, as garbled sounds seem to collapse in on each other and guitar scree occasionally chimes in. Even more atmospheric, bordering on ambient, is 'drumless (reprise)'. If it's disjointed, disturbed and otherworldly tracks that you're after then there are plenty among the sixteen songs here, and one of the best is 'Sequel Ate My Guitar', where blues is contorted into a slow-motion catastrophe of an acid-trip. And you wouldn't really expect something called 'Motorcycledeathsong' to be sweetness and light, but it is relatively upbeat.
Overall, 'Slowburnblue (Director's Cut)' is a fascinating melee of noise that occasionally feels as though it's being beamed down by a waiting alien invasion in an attempt to withdraw your mind from reality and make you easier to control. It's not polite, it's not an easy ride, and to some people it will be nothing more than a grating racket. But if you want to test the boundaries of your taste and hear sounds that, even after a decade and a half, will push your own limits (in much the same way as MANGABROS must have pushed their limits during its creation), the this is a twisted melting pot that's capable of allowing that to happen. Dive in, but don't necessarily expect to come out with your faculties intact.
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