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Azure Vista

Azure Vista

At the pace with which he has released material in the past couple years, one might not guess that this is the first true full-length from Manual in the past several years. Since Jonas Munk put out his amazing Ascend release, he's teamed up with Icebreaker International (Into Forever), Jess Kahr (The North Shore), and Syntaks (Golden Sun) for a batch of releases on different labels, and despite the collaborations, all have been a continuation of the Manual sound.

If you've heard anything by Manual before, you might know what I'm speaking of. His releases are not only very textural (lots of guitar layers and usually rather intricate programming), but nearly every release seems to have sort of a serious infatuation with nostalgia, time lost, and sunsets and coastlines in general (musically, as well as in terms of artwork). With all that in mind, Azure Vista is yet another continuation in that sound, and while it has some familiar sounds that one would associate with Manual, it's completely different than anything he's ever released before.

For one, this release is probably the most expansive and slowly-unfolding release in his entire solo release catalogue. Compared to his first two albums of melodic IDM, (and even his more ambient Isares EP), Azure Vista takes its sweet time in getting anywhere. Six tracks clock in at almost fifty minutes running length, and instead of delving even more into modern electronics, it seems to take more of a look back (there's that nostalgia again!) to the heyday of 4AD and early shoegazers with an almost singleminded focus on texture and melody.

"Clear Skies Above The Coastline Cathedral" opens the release with washes of sepia-toned guitar and keyboard while simple programmed rhythms provide little more than a skeletal frame to hang lush crescendos upon. At nearly twelve minutes, the follow-up of "Summer Of Freedom" takes off with a mellow gallop before unloading with a series of completely rewarding releases that somehow manage to sustain the track for the entire running length, gaining ever-so-slightly in intensity each time and ratcheting up the emotion.

After the long track, the quiet ambience of "Twilight" arrives as little more than a breathy comedown while "Neon Reverie" comes on like a long soundtrack piece to a John Hughes film as light sprinklings of keyboards mingle with heavily-reverbed guitars for a dreamy mixture of sound that might make you instantly yearn to watch an old film with Molly Ringwald. As mentioned above, these tracks tend to really stretch out and unfold at their own pace, and while there is a little bit of meandering on the release, it's another solid set of tracks from a talented young musician who seemingly refuses to repeat himself with the same old thing. If you enjoy your guitars shimmery, look no further.

Rating: 7