- Mano Le Tough—Ireland's Niall Mannion, now based in Berlin—does lush like few others. Cuts like "Eurodancer" (Mirau Musik), "Baby, Let's Love" (Dirt Crew) and "Oblique" (Internasjonal) show an interest in the mechanics of emotive house that goes way beyond mopey chord-mulling—as well as a facility for structure and harmony that lends the best of his work an effortless sense of depth and motion.
Flush with bells, piano, synth pads and a jittery arpeggio reminiscent of The Who's "Baba O'Riley," "Stories" is a languid deep house cut with just enough rhythmic purpose to keep bodies moving through a warm-up set; the sharpness of the drums strikes a balance with the smoothness of the song's harmonies, like thorns against rose petals. Mannion's voice, breathy and distant, sounds like he's been studying Arthur Russell, and the style suits him well. Beyond the careful production and his own vocal performance, however, what makes "Stories" so powerful is its harmonic dimension, with changes more nuanced than we're used to hearing in dance music.
Duskier and more ominous, "From the Start" might be two songs in one. Pitting sparse, syncopated drums against ghostly pads, it feels a little bit like drum & bass played at 33. Then, with a swell of horns, distant voices, and ringing chords, it suddenly shifts into something very close to pop. "Take It Back" is the EP's most driving cut, thanks to skipping hi-hats and kinetic handclap patter, although "driving" isn't really the right word for a song that settles in like an extended swoon, with a bassline that recalls Ricardo Villalobos' "Dexter." The mood is somewhere between bittersweet and tentatively optimistic; it's emo as anything, but it never resorts to breast-beating.
B1 From the Start
B2 Take It Back