The French duo Maninkari crafts music with a haunted sensuality. Mythical and improvisational in spirit, the sounds are activated in solitude, at night. Imagine The Necks playing in a vampire opium den; it’s not exactly the soundtrack for reading my four year old to bed (although not impossible!). Much like Maninkari’s 2-disc debut album Le Diable Avec Ses Chevaux, mostly older instruments make up the duo’s sound. Old wood and strings contain rich resonance and, as Olivier and Frederic Charlot have said, unlimited sustain. Thus, when given a proper listen, it is delightfully easy to discover yourself at the edge of the world in the Asian Steppes, the desert full of distant red-eyed raiders, and minarets peaking out of canyons.
Curious is that after a number of albums and EPs, Continuum Sonore is the duo’s first drone record. “Part 1” grounds the proceedings with a slow crawl of bodhran and toms, but the tide of drone soon washes the percussion away for the rest of the album. The cymbalom (a Hungarian hammered dulcimer) is used for much of the ambiance; its strings glisten like the setting sun atop the ocean in “Part 1” and reverberate the way sparks bounce off of steel in “Part 6”. When cymbalom is present, it’s as if the hallway is lit with torches, and when other elements take the lead, the shadows move about, and the irrational mind must fill in the blanks.
The strength of Continuum Sonore is contained in its rich and mysterious variety. “Part 2” takes another ancient, ritualized sound – church bells – and sets it to drone, while “Part 3” is a brief Transylvanian synth mantra. The gem of the album is the meditative, 18-minute weatherscape in “Part 4.” Sporting zombified kinetics that grow slowly, this piece is truly something new for Maninkari. Shimmering effects are the breath while a lugubrious, distorted sine wave is the boat. An intensity increases like a rush of wind over a corpse on a giant sand dune. The duo has never shown this level of patience, a skill toddlers are inversely proportionate to. When I was able to get through this piece without interruption it truly was special.
There are folks that would label this music as “dark”. Granted I can only hear its power when the sun is down, my family asleep, but it’s no darker than the horrors locked away in our own emotional corridors. In fact amongst these sounds I find many footholds and textural branches to hold onto and climb. The truth in the music is shared by that in a coat of feathers or a bed of quartz. Its tone of pausal reflection meets me when I awake in the middle of the night and watch my children sleep, their wild, unstoppable bodies in stasis. I forget the beautiful trauma of the day, and think how wonderful. Maninkari has always been visually evocative (the group has even scored several films), and it is this album’s stylistic dynamics that makes it such a rich listen. Ensure you are not interrupted. (Nayt Keane)