This will be the third time Jonas Munk has graced the isolatedmix series. The first, depicting the many great influences to hail from his native Denmark (isolatedmix 21 – Dreamy Sounds from Odense). The second, alongside Jason Kolb as Billow Observatory (isolatedmix 39 – Summer Memories) and now, as Manual – the very first pseudonym that led me to discover this talented and multi-faceted producer.
October just gone, Jonas released Memory and Matter, a selection of rarities and unreleased tracks that spanned his fifteen-plus-year catalogue as Manual. It was a culmination of his perfected sound and a compilation of the many shoegaze/post-rock-esque and ambient tracks he has graced us with over the years. If you need to understand how Jonas and Manual came to be, how he pushed his sound, and how far it has come over the years, then this is it.
For many of us however, we can’t settle on the back catalogue alone to truly understand the influences behind some of our favourite Manual tracks like, Summer of Freedom, Tourmaline, Miraparque, and Blue Skied an’ clear. So we invited Jonas back one more time to illustrate the inspirations behind Manual. Jonas has kindly provided an introduction and detailed track-notes to this very special isolatedmix.
1. Two Lone Swordsmen: ”Hope We Never Surface”
2. Autechre: ”Pir”
3. Pluramon: ”Noise Academy”
4. Morgan Caney & Kamal Joory: ”Blanket”
5. Freeshca: ”Abominable Love”
6. Ulrich Schnauss: ”Einfeld”
7. Franco Falsini: ”Cold Nose pt. 3”
8. Tortoise: ”The Suspension Bridge at Iguazu Falls”
9. Dub Tractor: ”Hum (Part 4)”
10. Sensations Fix: ”Music is Painting in the Air”
11. Durutti Column: ”Bordeaux Sequence”
12. Dif Juz: ”No Motion”
13. July Skies: ”Swallows and Swifts”
14. The Dead Texan: ”Girth Rides a (Horse)
15. Mark Isham: ”Sympathy and Acknowledgement”
16. Simple Minds: ”A Brass Band in African Chimes”
17. Roedelius: ”Veilchenwurzeln”
18. Auburn Lull: ”Shallow in Youth”
19. Ashra: ”Ocean of Tenderness”
20. Brian Eno with Daniel Lanois and Roger Eno: ”Always Returning”
Introduction and track notes by Jonas Munk (Manual)
A couple of these tracks are recent discoveries but the vast majority of them are from records that have had a very distinct and durable influence on the Manual albums. These are some of the essential tracks.
People who have followed my work extensively will surely be able to recognize obvious traits of these sounds in my work. Which is cool. I’ve never felt it was important to maintain any sense of mystery about where ideas come from, or nurture any romantic conception of genius, for that matter – as if inspiration could appear out of nowhere. Besides, the music I’ve produced as Manual for the last 15 years has never sought to constantly reinvent itself, nor has it been my ambition to produce something strikingly original or progressive. Rather, my hope has always been that if I kept my vision long and intensely enough – if I continously starred at the same idea, only changing the angle from time to time, something personal and long-lasting would crystalize. The degree of success, at least in any conventional way, has always been secondary, maintaining the vision primary. In my view originality, at least in the traditional sense, is overrated. The focus on originality as the prime criterion for artistic quality and relevance is a cultural symptom of limited attention span, and a lack of depth. I have always had a quite limited scope for the Manual sound, always returning to a small but well defined set of ideas and sources of inspiration. And everything on this mix is something I’ve kept returning to since discovering the tracks during the last 15 years.
1. Two Lone Swordsmen: Hope We Never Surface
I got deeply into electronic music in early 1999, the result of a musical chain reaction after seeing Tortoise live at Roskilde Festival the previous summer. Looking back it wasn’t the worst time to discover Warp Records who had recently put out BOC’s Music Has the Right the Children, Autechre’s LP5 and Two Lone Swordsmen’s Stay Down, where this track is from.
2. Autechre: Pir
This track nicely captures everything they did so well back then. I was deeply into Autechre for several years and still find their 1995-2000 output hard to beat.
3. Pluramon feat. Julee Cruise: Noise Academy
It doesn’t seem that long ago that it felt like there existed vast possibilities fusing shoegaze with electronic beats and all kinds of digital processing, but for me this album represents some kind of zenith of that fusion. And yes, it’s Julee Cruise of Twin Peaks fame. Lovely track.
4. Morgan Caney & Kamal Joory: Blanket
Thomas Morr from Morr Music gave me this 7” single on one of my first trips to Berlin. Back then discovering music was such a different activity. This track made a huge impression on me and perfectly captured the sound I was aiming for back then, but didn’t fully have the expertise to execute as well yet. Just beautiful.
5. Freescha: Abominable Love
Freescha is another band I discovered early on and have kept coming back to. They create lo-fi synth-scapes that will appeal to any Boards of Canada fan but they have their own distinctively Californian vibe going. This track is from the Slower Than Church Music mini LP – a good place to start for the unacquainted.
6. Ulrich Schnauss: Einfeld
I first heard of Ulrich Schnauss visiting CCO/Baked Goods (now Boomkat) in Manchester in July 2001. We were hanging out in the office on the fourth floor, all windows open due to the intense heat (and due to everybody smoking Marlboro Lights), and Shlom (CCO co-owner) threw on a test pressing of forthcoming LP with the word Schnauss scribbled on it. Halfway through the A-side I knew this was something truly special. I’ve often wondered why the compositional and harmonic elements in electronic music – even the rather good stuff – so often verges on the banal. Ulrich is a rare exception: at the heart of his music lies an insistence on creating interesting chord progressions and compositional structures. His music, as well as his dedication, continues to be an inspiration.
7. Franco Falsini: Cold Nose pt. 3
This is quite a recent discovery. Franco Falsini made a handful of experimental space-rock albums in the seventies, under his own name as well as with Sensations Fix, that would probably have been called ”krautrock” had he originated from Germany instead of Italy. In a weird way this short piece connects perfectly with a lot of the other stuff included in this mix.
8. Tortoise: The Suspension Bridge at Iguazu Falls
TNT must be one of the records I’ve listened to the most times ever. You can hear Tortoise in everything I’ve ever done, but the melodic aspect is probably what’s been cannibalised into the Manual albums. I also love the way they blend very different things in the mix – in this case marimbas, percussion, analog synths, dub effects and a surf-guitar inspired Fender Jazzmaster melody line. The part when the second guitar comes in halfway through the song has to be one of my all-time favourite moments. It kills me every time.
9. Dub Tractor: Hum (Part 4)
Beautiful, moody piece from one of Denmark’s finest.
10. Sensations Fix: Music is Painting in the Air
Another Falsini piece, this one from the first Sensations Fix album Fragments of Light, released in 1974. Music like this will never get old.
11. Durutti Column: Bordeaux Sequence
I simply had to include Durutti Column in this mix. I’ve always imagined the Manual albums to exist as part of an imaginary tradition, or as part of a family tree of sound – a kind of alternative historic line drawn back through the last four decades of music, bypassing most of the stuff that is normally deemed important, whatever that means. If there’s one artist I feel the Manual albums are genealogically connected to it’s Vini Reilly.
12. Dif Juz: No Motion
Much the same can be said about Dif Juz – a band that has remained in obscurity even though they have out some of the finest releases on 4AD in the label’s history and being far ahead of their time (this is from the mid-1980s!). Exceptional guitar-playing.
13. July Skies: Swallows and Swifts
July Skies, a.k.a. Anthony Harding, has built an entire style on records such as Slowdive’s Pygmalion and Durutti Column’s Vini Reilly. The beautiful calm, inwardness and melancholy on albums such as Dreaming if Spires and Where the Days Go is something very unique.
14. The Dead Texan: Girth Rides a (Horse)
As a whole this album probably isn’t among Adam Wiltzie’s (Stars of the Lid and others) finest, but this track does weird things to me each time.
15. Mark Isham: Sympathy and Acknowledgement
Mark Isham is probably best know as a trumpeter and film composer. I got into him via his work on classic David Sylvian records. He has made a couple of very nice electronic works as well, and this track comes from his 1983 album Vapor Drawings, released on Windham Hill, which is an extremely undervalued piece of electronic minimalism from that era.
16. Simple Minds: A Brass Band in African Chimes
When I was a kid Simple Minds and U2 were my favourite bands in the world. And around the time I started working on Azure Vista I got heavily into that big 1980s sound again. During my rediscovery of Simple Minds I also realized they created some amazing instrumentals along the way, where they would really dig into sound-scaping in an interesting way. This is a reworking of Shake Off the Ghosts, released as the B-side to Don’t You (Forget About Me) in 1985.
17. Roedelius: Veilchenwurzeln
Of all the great electronic music that came out of Germany throughout the 1970s the stuff that Roedelius was involved in (along with Manuel Göttsching’s projects) speaks to me the most. There’s an organic quality to his sound and a certain warmth and melancholy that still feels very timeless today.
18. Auburn Lull: Shallow in Youth
Cast From the Platform is one of my all-time favourite albums. It almost feels weird choosing just one track from it as it deserves to be listened to in its entirety. It came out in the early summer of 2004 and since I brought a mini disc (!) with this album with me around the world that summer, it still evokes images of Spain, Tokyo, California and Greece when I listen to it now. After a surf session that summer I was hanging out in Oceanside with James from Darla and Jesus from Acuarela Records, who was on holiday in California at the time. -We were talking about what a wonderful album it was and Jesus suggested we did a Manual/Auburn Lull split EP. The EP never happened but it did bring me in touch with the band and I’ve been working with Jason Kolb for the past eight years.
19. Ashra: Ocean of Tenderness
I’ve always loved Manuel Göttsching’s guitar playing, his sense of melody and the way he used those incredibly lush 1970s ”ensemble” synthesizers – a kind of instrument I cherish deeply and have used extensively myself . He’s definitely another important part of my imagined family tree.
20. Brian Eno with Daniel Lanois and Roger Eno: Always Returning
It’s hard to think of anything more essential than Brian Eno’s, Apollo when considering music that have inspired the Manual sound.