I gave this album an unusually biased first listen after having bought Marc Bianchi’s first LP, Home is Where You Hang Yourself, listened to it once, and sold it back to the record store the following day. The tracks had no real life to them: monotonous and repetitive: two attributes not very beneficial to any music—outside of the work of Morton Feldman, and a few others, maybe—and especially not to electronic music. So, when Bianchi’s Manic Expressive arrived in my mail for review, I immediately felt a pound of lead settle in my stomach, and when I tossed the album in my CD player my ears were saying, ‘No’, before I even pressed play.
After skimming the album for no more than 15 minutes, I turned it off, and it ended up in my pile of ‘To Review Later’ records and CDs to which I rarely return.
I apologize Mr. Bianchi. I apologize because I didn’t give Manic Expressive a fair chance. I apologize because I finally decided to revisit the album minus my lack of interest in your earlier work, and while there’s still a lot reminiscent of Home is Where . . ., which seems to define the trademark her space holiday sound, I can at the least say that your compositional skills have dramatically improved since that 2000 release.
So now, here is a review without any preconceptions:
On every track, Bianchi includes a very sparse and recurring melody. Always airy and just out of reach, all I can say is that they bother me. They give the individual tracks, and the album as a whole, an unshakable degree of sterility. Done.
And then there are the vocals. Sure, Bianchi has a lovely voice. Soft, clear, simple. But when he sings he mimics the melodic lines with a transparent airiness that leaves him hanging only by a thread to each track. Done.
Finally, specific to this album is an obvious idolization of the budding and simultaneously crumbling IDM [Intelligent Dance Music] scene. Unfortunately, with the occasional abrasive burp of a kick rush or crisp percussive tick, Bianchi sets himself up as nothing more than another Pink Floyd tribute band or little girl dressed up like Britney Spears. His implementation and mimicry of the style is homeless in his work and tends to remove the listener from the songs as complete entities and make him focus on those elements as they interrupt his vestige of a voice. Done.
On the last track, ‘Manic Expressive [exit]’, though, I was surprised to finally hear what Bianchi spent the whole album aiming for. The track immediately fills the space of the entire room with a beautiful and simple counterpoint of an 8-bit bassline and an ambient vibraphone held together with the delicate pins of clicking percussion. Even as the vocals come in, the words are gracefully fastened to the rest of the track by the same pins. The track continues to build levels until it eventually topples over and restacks itself upside down with an exit of strings. . . .
If the whole album had the strength of the final track, I would be seriously pleased. But it does not. Rather, Manic Expressive as a whole sounds like a failed attempt at a) minimalism, b) ambient, and c) IDM. Done.