Mana - Seven Steps Behind

  • Experimental tracks inspired by classical music.
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  • In recent years, classical music has been a source of inspiration for electronic music producers. Labels like Erased Tapes have won big audiences by combining electronic and classical music, while artists such as Vessel and Oneohtrix Point Never have gestured towards chamber music on recent records. Rather than writing scores or collaborating with musicians, Daniele Mana—formerly Vaghe Stelle—manipulates electronic instruments to sound like prepared piano, harpsichord, cello and flute, while distorting recordings of acoustic instruments beyond recognition. His new album was composed on a steady diet of classical music and experimental composition. Shedding the beats Mana made as Vaghe Stelle in favour of elegantly impressionistic composition, Seven Steps Behind sounds like alien chamber music played by a hyperreal orchestra, alternately bewitching and bewildering. The music on Seven Steps Behind, along with the blurry, fractured mask on the cover, is meant to "represent [Mana's] dreams and subconscious in a musical form," inspired by his nighttime visions and lucid dreams. The album is appropriately ephemeral, with fuzzy edges and indistinct forms. Each track is like a deconstructed classical composition. Some are more convincing than others. You'll hear busy harpsichord on "Instinction," lifelike strings on "Talking / Choking" and eerie choral vocals on "Leverage For Survival," all of which are knotty and intricate. Other tracks, like "Symphony Of Regulation," are a less convincing splatter of instruments on a blank canvas. The sound of Mana's synthetic instrumentation is striking. There are luminous plucked strings on "A Note On The Limits," while the soaring lead on "No Body" is an uncanny blend of human voice and synth. The surging, trance-influenced melodies and arpeggios on "Myopia For The Future" show the influence of Lorenzo Senni (with whom Mana works in the group One Circle). On "Swordsmanship," the LP's most head-turning moment, Mana arranges jerky, stabbing notes in a fast spray, mimicking the outré prepared piano of the Warp artist Kelly Moran, whose sound Mana said took days to imitate. The tracks that move beyond classical tropes are the album's most intriguing. Ambiguity is the name of the game on Seven Steps Behind. Some moments are deeply affecting while others you can hardly remember. Something like "Swordsmanship" or the slow, doomed waltz of the title track will stick with you after you play, but it seems unlikely you'd be able to recall a stranger, less structured song like "Soaking In Water." At its best, Seven Steps Behind subverts the saccharine style of modern classical electronic music with distracted compositions that sputter and veer off into unexpected tangents. Seven Steps Behind is too unfocused to be a slam dunk, but there's potential for something truly new here. In an era where club classics in the concert hall have lost their novelty, it's thrilling to hear orchestral instruments twisted like this.
  • Tracklist
      01. Risk Taking 02. Myopia For The Future 03. Talking Choking 04. A Note On The Limits 05. Swordsmanship 06. Leverage For Survival 07. Symphony Of Regulation 08. Solo 09. No Body 10. Instinction 11. Soaking In Water 12. Seven Steps Behind