Manual, aka Jonas Munk, is a producer from Odense, Denmark specializing in a unique brand of warm, organic music that fuses elements of new and old, electronic and hand-played, analogue and digital. He made his debut 10 years ago with an EP on Hobby Industries, followed by a handful of releases on Morr Music, both as Manual and with Icebreaker International, as well as his band Limp. Later, Munk signed with Darla and expanded his work into the area of minimalist ambient music while still perfecting the original Manual sound.
While completely unknown in his native Denmark, Munk is considered an influential artist in the circles of dream pop and electronica, and he has toured all over the world, and collaborated with artists including Ulrich Schnauss, Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins), Auburn Lull and, perhaps more surprisingly, members of Tortoise and Sunburned Hand of the Man. He has also scored a number of documentary films and undertaken production work for other bands and artists. Aside from collaborations, two minimalist ambient albums and a rarities collection from 2007, Drowned in Light is the first Manual album in five years.
Manual’s style has been described as "one of the most recognisable in electronica". At the core of this lies an ongoing desire to fuse electronic music with the structures and compositional elements of rock and pop and an insistence that electronica can be fresh and innovative without flowing with the latest trends. Never have Munk’s unique strategies been more apparent than on his new album Drowned in Light, an ambitious work that showcases Munk’s talent for adventurous compositions, his finely-tuned production skills and aptitude for sound-design. On this latest album, drum machine loops and shimmering guitars (electric, acoustic, 12-string and flamenco) are bathed in analogue synth and modular effects, creating a lush, intoxicating sound that looks back to the 1970s and 1980s without a hint of the usual sleek irony or hip retro-revivalism, whilst simultaneously looking forward to a time when boundaries between programmed and played, and synthetic and organic, have become obsolete.
The family tree of Drowned in Light begins with Harmonia, Ash Ra Temple and Ennio Morricone in the 1970s, Durutti Column and Cocteau Twins in the 1980s, through to Seefeel and Slowdive in the 1990s. Manual continues this lineage and pushes into new territories. A prime example is “Biarritz”, where analog synth sequences that could belong in a Tangerine Dream excursion blend with elements of modern electronica, exotica and echoes of 80s’ synth pop. In a similar fashion “Phainomenon” rolls along like a mid-70s Ash Ra Temple jam until halfway, where the mood breaks and the track enters classic dream pop territory, leading to a dizzying climax. “Blood Run” and “Afterimages”, meanwhile, arguably possess some of Munk’s finest guitar playing, whilst “Pulsations” is, without doubt, the most cosmic, distorted and swirling psychedelic moment in the Manual catalogue.
In some ways Drowned in Light reaches back to the early Manual days of Ascend, a result of Munk’s rediscovered love of working with analogue gear. It is a diverse set, though, bound together by a warm, crystalline production and Munk’s signature guitar playing. Composition and craftsmanship on this level is such a rarity in an overcrowded sea of electronic music. This is the perfect album to accompany any journey into spring…
1. Warm Circuits
5. Drowned In Light
6. Empty Inside
8. Morning Glass 1982
10. Blood Sun
Past press praise for Manual:
“...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.” -- Tangents Magazine
“The musings of so many of his peers feel conceptually thin and prefabricated in comparison to Manual's wandering, curious anthems.” –- Pitchfork
“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… and you've got a beautiful, awe-inducing force of nature.” -- Erasing Clouds Magazine
“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