Manual: The North Shore

[27 June 2004]

By Ryan Potts

Jonas Munk, after stripping down IDM’s blueprint and resurrecting it with shoegaze surrealism and blissed-out melodies on previous full-lengths Until Tomorrow and Ascend, has scaled back his musical accessories to reveal his minimal essentials. Munk (aka Manual) now pieces together soaring soundscapes and ambient passages with the music’s sole source being the guitar. Expansive and gorgeously understated, The North Shore is a sonic encapsulation in which the album title, cover art, and music coalesce into a solitary vision of serene landscapes and scenic ocean shores.

The North Shore‘s reference points are not hidden—from Brian Eno and Tangerine Dream to Boards of Canada and Keith Fullerton Whitman. However, it’s what Manual extracts from these influences and how he applies them that helps The North Shore transcend mere ambience to become a brightly obscured collage of droning guitar work and blissful, hazy streaks of synthesizer tones. The restrained palpability of this album is its primary strength.

What suits The North Shore so well, though, is its ability to harmonize with nature to a point where your ears can hear the waves washing upon the sandy beaches and the water’s gentle ebb and flow. Manual has seemingly sculpted the album’s swelling dreamscapes and gossamer textures by chiseling away nature itself to reveal the shoreline’s minimal aural counterpart.

Unlike much of Manual’s past output, the beats never litter the song’s core, the shoegaze-induced guitar sounds never expose themselves, and very rarely does a remnant of melody sift itself into The North Shore‘s soaring atmospherics. Nonetheless, Manual effectively reinvents himself by stripping away everything he is known for. In doing so, Manual maturely crafts an album that is capable of sending the listener into a trance where waves, beaches, and sunset skies slowly close around you.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/manual-north/