Man Out Of Time is the fourth studio album by American band Manna/Mirage.
Manna/Mirage is a project led by Dave Newhouse, former keyboardist of the avant-prog band The Muffins, with other members of The Muffins joining in from time to time. Manna/Mirage, which released its first album in 2015, takes its name from The Muffins’ 1978 debut album of the same name.
Manna/Mirage’s fourth album serves up raucous but richly orchestrated progressive rock with a dashing jazz-rock side flavour. Occasionally, it also veers gently into gentle Canterbury atmospheres and then back to angular avant-prog.
The album is mostly instrumental, but Carla Diratz sings in one song in the slightly whimsical but sympathetic ”World Song”, which dives into dark Twin Peaks-like nightclub jazz atmospheres.
Man Out Of Time starts with a thunderous prog-inspired big band tune ”What’s The Big Idea”. The song features some really nice brass arrangements and the way it uses brass in a rhythmic way is lovely. Rhythm section drummer Sean Rickman and bassist Jerry King do a great job on the song and the biting guitar solo is also great. ”What’s The Big Idea” was intended for a big band album planned by The Muffins, but the project was scrapped when the band broke up.
In the middle of the album we hear a series of three great songs that reflect the versatility of the album. All three songs reach out in very different directions, but also work well as part of the album as a whole.
The first of these three tracks is the Canterbury-inspired ”In For Penny” with Rich O’Meara playing a wonderful marimba. Newhouse’s own wordless vocals seem to be in the style of Richard Sinclair of Caravan fame, and Alanna Cohen Duvall at the end is reminiscent of Hatfield And The North’s ”girl choir” The Northettes.
The middle of the three straights is ”Red Ball Express” which picks up the pulse nicely after the laid-back ”In For A Penny”. In the furiously skronking brass-driven ”Red Ball Express”, two competing melodic lines battle it out in a chaotic but intriguing way. A heavily surface mixed drum kit rattles oppressively and wailing vocals crown the wild ensemble.
The three-straight finale, meanwhile, heads towards the deep end of progressive rock – the turbulent core of avant-prog. The almost 11-minute dark-tinged composition ”4 Steps Back” is the album’s most intricate offering. The song features a guest appearance from Guy Segers, the Belgian bassist who once played in Univers Zero, whose knee-slapping bass pattern is a treat to listen to, but so is Mark Stanley’s long electric guitar solo that straddles the line between jazz and rock’n roll. Stanley’s strangely twangy guitar solo recalls the wild and unpredictable style of Magma’s late guitarist James Mac Gaw. Gary Rouzer’s wonderfully rusty cello, O’Meara’s playful marimba and Jerry King’s sturdy trumpet and trombone add their own colour to this fine song.
The Fred Frith–inspired ”Fred’s Dream” is surprisingly the most accessible offering on the album. Surprising because Frith’s own music, often very experimental, is rarely very accessible (there are exceptions, of course, such as the delicious Gravity from 1980). Of course, the fact that Frith only indirectly inspired the piece explains its approachability.
Newhouse had a dream that he was at a concert venue waiting for the concert to start when suddenly, from the back of the auditorium, he heard a sudden burst of charming pop music. Newhouse checked the scene and it turned out that this addictive music was being played by a band led by Fred Frith. Newhouse couldn’t quite believe it – the music was far too pop to be Frith’s. When he woke up in the morning, Newhouse wrote down this ”Frith song”. The result was the wonderful ”Fred’s Dream” which we hear on the album and which I don’t think is pop by any standards. Rather, it’s an elegant melodic prog song accompanied by Newhouse’s gentle electric piano and woodwinds.
”Fred’s Dream” is crowned by a long, gorgeously crackling and multi-dimensionally shimmering, guitar solo played by, you guessed it, Fred Frith. Newhouse told Frith about his dream and asked if the guitarist would play a solo on the song he had inspired. And Frith agreed. Frith and Newhouse had known each other for a long time, as The Muffins were one of the first bands of Henry Cow’s Rock In Opposition movement. After RIO, Newhouse played on Frith’s aforementioned solo album Gravity and Frith in turn produced The Muffins’ <185>.
Read also: Review: Soft Machine – Six (1973)
Man Out Of Time is a real triumph for Newhouse. I think it beats even the best albums of The Muffins. Man Out Of Time weaves together several different genres into a truly delicious listening experience that is at once warm and inviting like the best Canterbury albums, but also contains some very challenging avant-progressive music with a natural feel. At a compact 36 minutes, the album feels like one of the masterpieces of the 70s in a positive sense, where not a single moment was wasted. However Man Out Of Time is not a retro-style band that is constantly looking back, but a unique and timeless sounding album that I believe will stand the test of time as well as countless listens. For me, Man Out Of Time is one of the musical highlights of 2021.
Best songs: ’What’s The Big Idea’, ’In For Penny’, ’4 Steps Back’, ’Fred’s Dream’
Kirjoittaja: JANNE YLIRUUSI
- What’s The Big Idea 04:19
- World Song 03:43
- In For A Penny 04:35
- Red Ball Express 02:55
- 4 Steps Back 10:45
- Fred’s Dream 03:55
- Silver Age 04:02
- These Days 02:34
Dave Newhouse: keyboards, woodwinds, marching drums Sean Rickman: drums Jerry King: bass guitar and brass Dereck Higgins: bass guitar Guy Segers: bass guitar (5) Carla Diratz: vocals Mark Stanley: guitar Bret Hart: guitar Fred Frith: guitar (6) Rich O’Meara: marimba, vibraphone Forrest Fang: violin Gary Rouzer: cello Alanna Cohen Duvall: vocals