When you’ve had a really long, frustrating, stressful day at work, before you seek solace in a pint at your neighborhood pub, try listening to the latest release from Manual. When after an hour and a half at the gym you still feel wound up and stressed out, come home and throw on Azure Vista
and lose yourself in its dreamy quality. As a born-and-raised East Coaster and a relatively new Vancouverite, I am more comfortable with a dizzying, fast-paced lifestyle and have a little trouble with the serene, new age, organic west coast attitude. I was, however, surprised with how easily I got lost in the ambient/chill out vibe on Manual’s new album, Azure Vista.
Another gem off the California-based Darla Records, Azure Vista
is the third solo effort from Jonas Munk, a.k.a. Manual. Munk spent the time in between the release of his last album, 2002’s Ascend
, and Azure Vista
on compilation projects with Jess Kehr (The North Shore) and Syntaks (The Golden Sun).
The cover art on the new album is stunning and is a dreamy depiction of Munk’s inspiration for the album, sunny California, where he was visiting while he recorded Azure Vista
Despite my predilection for things a little louder and more intense, I got completely lost in the extremely melodic and interesting layers of sampling, electronica, and guitars and drums. I found the music to be trance-inducing. I in no way mean to compare it to rave or club trance music, but Munk’s layering of sounds somehow induces a trance-like state in the listener. This is not a bad thing, nor is it a sign of boredom; we could all use a little time to ourselves to completely zone out once in a while.
With the exception of one three-minute song, the album’s other five songs are all quite long, each well over seven minutes. I was constantly guessing where the lengthy songs would end up, and was continually, and pleasantly, surprised by the many twists and turns in each, a testament to Munk’s songwriting abilities. Each tune is epic and has an almost narrative quality.
The sound of ocean waves introduces the listener to the album, situating him/her on the beach with a cocktail in his/her hand. I could almost see myself basking in the California sunshine, despite the dreary, grey Vancouver that was just inches away outside my window.
I found the combination of synthesizers and guitars on “Neon Reverie” to be particularly interesting.
Although I did thoroughly enjoy this album, I’m not sure how much play it will receive on my iPod. In all fairness to Manual, this is not the type of music I listen to on a daily basis though I did enjoy the pretty, almost mystical quality of the music. On the other hand, it kind of reminded me of the “nature” music they play in the natural living section of the pharmacy or the relaxation music they play at any generic spa, yet of a far superior quality. Obviously.
If you enjoy ambient music then this is definitely an album to check out as it is one of the best I’ve heard. Even if you’re not that into chill out music, the next time you have a bad day, instead of resorting to your usual vices, pop in Azure Vista
and watch the tension melt away.