Manual – Until Tomorrow (2001)

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Well this is different. I’ve finally left the rainsoaked, flooded climes of Britain this year and am currently writing my standard Sunday Night Review in the Mediterranean climes of Italy, in a nice secluded Tuscan hideaway. I had two problems; the first was deciding what to review and the second is somewhat more problematic, not having an operational (yet existent) Internet connection. Nevertheless, here it is anyway, although possibly later than usual, and bette yet you’re finally treated with what I regard as my #1 favourite album ever.

All things considered, it’s actually the perfect album, (objectively) for my present situation; the Sun has set over the Mediterranean horizon, the air is abuzz with the sound of foreign insects and filled with a sweet exotic musk. It’s been a long, tiring day with various stresses and strains making it somewhat uncomfortable at times; Until Tomorrow is really a late evening album, one that looks forward to the opportunities tomorrow holds after such a day.

“Nova” opens us out to the glitch filled electro acoustic beauty beyond; an album filled with delicate beats, warm and optimistic tones and a jittery rolling glitch haze. It’s imperfection and chaos balanced by “Velvet Sunset”, a somewhat melancholic track with a fundamentally precise and carefully though out guitar melody layered with a plethora of seemingly random glitch fragments. I make it sound unappealing, I know, but trust me when I say Manual is a genius with his compositions, making all the unique components mesh together without a single one feeling more prominent or unpleasant (notably the glitch).

As we move into tracks three & four we begin to see the story outline emerging through the track names alone; “It’ll Be Fine” and “Frequently”, both of which build on easygoing analogue synth beats. “It’ll Be Fine” is a decidedly optimistic number, as you can imagine, while “Frequently” (one of my favourite tracks of all time by the way) slowly adds increasing layers of texture onto a simplistic synth melody before a delicate guitar makes its way into the background. Like much of the album it almost, almost feels messy and aimless, but to me there is a incredibly considered and measured melody unfolding.

As we move into the somewhat weaker middle tracks of “Lunate” and “Inn” we get hints of Manual’s work to come on later albums; music with a greater ambient leaning, where warm synths are elongated and demote the glitch, even promoting some samples like the sea and waves (ala Azure Vista).

“Fortnights” is the only track with a true acoustic feel, bringing the guitar right to the fore with some standard glitch overtones. The penultimate “Baja Nights” brings more rolling beats and optimism, really bringing together all the sounds of the album into one wonderfully cohesive, bold and hopeful track. Again, it has a very unusual structure in terms of the way the individual pieces of the melody are arranged but it just…works. Finally, “Tomorrow” crosses the midnight border. The distractions and persuasions dealt out to convince us this day will be better culminate in this sigh of relief and understanding. It is slower, more tired, but accepting and even looks forward to what is to come. The guitar is forceful and the glitch bright and sparkly, the very sound of acceptance.

It’s an early album in Manual’s career; while it is lightyears ahead of his debut EP, it still has a lofi sound from his all analogue gear, which is admittedly disappointing compared to the clarity of later releases, but is also rather endearing. There is an obvious understanding of music here that is certainly refined over his career, but none of his later albums quite come close to the quiet brilliance of this understated release. It may seem an odd album to earmark as a personal favourite but I can’t help myself, it’s just brilliant.

P.s, I have a bunch of unlistened 2012 albums with me I’ll be working through. If I can get a connection I’ll dripfeed reviews as normal.

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