Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Manifesto - The Pills for Blindness (2020)



Country: Russia
Style: Progressive Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 26 Apr 2020
Sites: Facebook | Instagram | VK | YouTube

Manifesto are a prog rock band from Moscow and they do exactly what all the best prog rock bands do: keep me on my toes. This album, which runs half an hour even though it only features two tracks was constantly unexpected and I appreciated that considerably. I like hearing things that I have never heard before and this falls into that

The first of those is The Last Grand Manifesto, a telling title for a group called Manifesto, and it tells us quickly and clearly that they're huge Pink Floyd fans. This is so akin to classic Floyd that I wondered at one point if I'd actually popped on a Roger Waters solo concert instead, where he changed things up on Shine On You Crazy Diamond and then segued into some alternate universe combination of Time, Money and Welcome to the Machine.

But then those sound effects grow. What initially appears to be a set of the sampled embellishments that Alan Parsons pioneered on Dark Side of the Moon just keeps on going for the last half of the song. And given that the song's fourteen minutes long and this starts around the four minute mark, that's a heck of a lot of samples and a lot of non-music to sit on a music album. It becomes a journey and it captivated me like a radio drama.

Where it took me, I'm still not entirely sure, but through a few centuries of history is a good place to start. There's war here and peace, the advent of technology, cultural shifts, you name it. It's wildly ambitious and it's more reminiscent of the sound collage work of artists like Corporal Blossom than any actual band, whether prog or not. Pink Floyd have never been quite this experimental, even on something as unusual as Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave And Grooving with a Pict.

The title track, split into two parts, has the unenviable task of following that opener and it does so by changing completely. Part 1 is wavery strings against piano until a voice shows up to take over from a cello. We're still in Floyd territory, with that voice moving from calm and soft and enticing to angry and vicious and reactionary. The production here is particularly fascinating because what's so obviously traditional, a song with voice and guitar and drums, is deliberately rendered a lot less traditional.

Sometimes it feels like we're listening to a vinyl album someone transferred to cassette and then left in a box in a hot shed for a couple of decades so that the tape's a little warped but still plays. Sometimes it feels like the band are performing underwater. And then things clean up and the band punch through the overlay with an urgent funk metal beat that might have come out of King Crimson. Manifesto never totally lose the Floyd influence here, but they add so much to it that they're something else entirely.

Part 1 only lasts seven minutes but it seems longer. Part 2 runs ten but it feels shorter, more timeless. There's more David Gilmour guitar and swathes of phrasing that's clearly taken from Floyd, but it all plays out more like a jazzy instrumental Steely Dan, even with Hammond organ swells in a funky first half and serious builds halfway through. The dynamics are glorious on this one and we shouldn't be surprised when we seem to finish up at a dinner party. What can they get me? More of that guitar, please. Thank you!

Sadly I have no idea which musicians to praise. The band have a group rather than a page on Facebook, so About doesn't tell me much. Instagram really has no interest in telling anyone anything and I'm still figuring VK out. So all I can say is that Manifesto hail from Moscow and I do mean the one in Russia not Idaho. I don't know how many people there are in the band or how long it has been making music or what else they might have done. However, I would be very happy to find out the answers to any or all of those questions. This is ambitious and original work and I want to hear more.

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