A new remastered and expanded edition of the most popular of Manual records - the 2005 shoegaze classic Azure Vista. Jonas Munk aka Manual remastered the original six album tracks and added seven live tracks performed in Chicago and Los Angeles on Manual's 2007 US tour. Long time friend and partner in music Jakob Skott redesigned the artwork for this 2xCD edition, which comes in a six panel Eco-wallet.
10 years after its release, Azure Vista still feels like a bold, and highly original work that's near-impossible to categorize. There's a definite dream-pop influence, occasionally recalling Robin Guthrie's most panoramic guitar work in Cocteau Twins, as well as Slowdive's oceanic euphoria. But this is far from being another shoegaze-homage. What really sets this set apart is the earnest and completely un-ironic incorporation of 1980s fm-radio sounds and John Hughes soundtracks, which Jonas Munk absorbed throughout his childhood and early teens - ghosts of Tears for Fears, New Order, Simple Minds and The Cure can all be heard throughout these six abundant, adventurous compositions, enveloping the ambience and electronics in a strange, nostalgic haze.
The album was partly written and conceptualized during a three month trip to California, when Munk was 22, and comes off as a crazed, innocent celebration of youth, freedom, sun and sea gradually unfolding over the course of 47 blissful minutes. If one senses a conceptual similarity to M83's indie hit record Sartudays = Youth (as well as one or two similar synth-riffs) , it's worth noting that Azure Vista was released three years earlier (!).
The second disc features 7 live cuts performed with Jakob Skott (aka Syntaks) on synths and samplers. There's a previously unreleased track included (Untitled) as well as radically different versions of Marbella – a track Munk originally wrote with Robin Guthrie – and Rise (a Syntaks track), as well as Sal Paradise (from the collaborative Manual & Syntaks effort Golden Sun).
1. Clear Skies Above the Coastline Cathedral
8. Summer of Freedom (Live)
10. Blue Shibuya Dream (Live)
Past praise for Azure Vista:
Manual's sound is what that eighties pop fell short of: the full realization of that cathedral of sound, the swirling layers that rip your heart out and stamp on it gracefully. Rarely does electronica feel so visceral, so big, so natural and wild...Munk is blurring lines between ambience and stadium rock. The tones Munk uses, the way he manipulates them, the construction of the songs themselves, show that he has a distinct ear. We should be thankful he is sharing his aural visions with us. They're that special.
Sonically, it’s Seefeel meets Sons And Fascination era Simple Minds meets Kevin Shields meets David Sylvian; in other words, it inhabits a world where boundaries blur and where sounds collide and move within and around each other to make something instantly, comfortingly recognizable yet with an abstract sense of the new.
Think of My Bloody Valentine, but lighter than air. Or think of what Air's soundtrack to The Virgin Suicides might have been like if they spent more time at the beach. Or think about Brian Eno, if he surfed and liked drinks with exotic names and umbrellas in them. Think about Tangerine Dream: their name even more than their sound. Think about the "shoegazers" gazing at a brillant blue ocean and jamming. Or think about that great wave of keyboards on the opening track of The Cure's Disintegration, but think of it not as an impending rainstorm but as a brilliant sun, a storm of sunbeams. Then think of all these things at once, and you've got a beautiful, awe-inducing force of nature.
- Erasing Clouds
Much like Pygmalion, Manual’s newest record, Azure Vista, sees the artist growing upwards and outwards. Gone is the three-minute pop masterpiece that typified Ascend. Instead, we’re met with six songs and only one under seven-minutes. This is an album with epic stamped all over it.
- Stylus Magazine
Munk's fascination with all things tropical or celestial has not diminished, as Manual's music captures the sound of laying out on the beach in your best swim trunks and Def Leppard cut-off shirt. Songs are saturated with the same synthesized sound which drenched the 1980s new wave pop movement. Munk, however is careful to add his own unique fringes of electronic eddies and whirlpools to the music.
A painstaking labour of love that principally takes Durutti Column and the Cocteau Twins as its key templates and weaves their chiming matrix into a celebratory carnival of lush colour coded ambient structures of the type so rarely heard these days. All at once sensual, invigorating, heart stopping and quite simply perfect.”
- Losing Today Magazine
The musings of so many of his peers feel conceptually thin and prefabricated in comparison to Manual's wandering, curious anthems.