I admit I wanted to like this album from the moment I saw the disgusting cover art by John Vochatzer. A bright anatomical nightmare figure tiptoes across a literally visceral landscape with brains, guts and banners of confetti all a go-go. I will also cop to a lesser but perhaps incriminating charge: Until a couple of weeks ago I was unaware that I played on the band's previous offering, 2017's Bleeding Eyes. In my former life as a musician, I sometimes jammed with other musicians whose music I admired. My 2016 jam with White Manna was caught on tape, mixed down to master and released. Harsh legal sanctions against this breach of trust are forthcoming, for I am a cruel mistress.
In the meantime, this album is a fucking doozy. Balloons of synths and keyboards drift in the air where once there were only heavy guitars and drums. A new era has been vinted. Reverb-haunted vocals stalk the mix that is the band's signature but they aren't the forefront as in offerings from the past. This is a truly sonic record. Do you remember the episodes of Mister Roger's Neighborhood and Sesame Street where they showed you how crayons and marbles were made? Good. Now imagine that Pink Floyd had chosen to record in those environments instead of at Pompeii in the early 1970s. Now we are getting somewhere near the album's aesthetic.
The songs melt and flow with pure Crayola lava. From the opening title track to side A's finisher, and perhaps my favorite tune, "O Captain," the record uncoils with juicy analog sweetness. Credit this to the production happening at Anthony Taibi's 3D Light Studio in Freshwater. Also reserve credit for the many fine collaborators like trumpeter Dominic Tavola, and Dieter and Andy Duvall from Opossum Sun Trail and Carlton Melton, respectively. But this beast belongs to the regular cast and everyone is out of their usual pocket here. The rhythm section of Tavan Anderson and Johnny Webb avoids the usual monotonic krautrock grooves for more dynamic and watery sounds. And songwriter David Johnson takes a different approach from the proto-punk of his earlier work to really stretch out. He seems to trust the band and the band pays it back in full with a wild, elastic mix.
Check it out and by the time you do, White Manna will likely have come out with a new record and unraveled new European tour plans and I'll have had to contact my solicitors to see if I'm owed royalties in Utrecht or Bern. Because unlike many of our best homegrown acts, these fellas really do get around.