Over the years I have discovered my love for the hand pan – a tuned percussion instrument that is so expressive and melodic it can send you to blissful sleep. Sleep is exactly what’s inspired Manu Delago and his new album ‘Circadian’. It is a collection of lush and uniquely melodic pieces that wrap around the stages of sleep and dream rhythms.
The title tracks opens the album with a minimalist approach letting Manu artistically work the instrument like a virtuoso. It waxes on and off tempos with just light string and percussion towards the end. It is the musical equivalent of falling off the cloud of the waking world and into a fluffy pillow. That takes us into ‘The Silent Flight of the Owl’ and the curious nocturnal approach the album brings. Whilst the tuned percussion is always central, a band of wind, string and percussion players make up the rest of the band as the tippy-toe around the rhythms and melodies. It is a great character track for the Owl. ‘Uranus’ is a slumber of a different kind. Here we are hushed by warm coo-ing woodwind and a lone trumpet that icily purrs around the dry noise. It sounds both enticing and alien.
The album then hits its half-hour sleep section that comprises of three tracks. ‘The Moment I’m Still Awake’ is a pensive stretch and yawn musically. The hissed percussion feels like a clock watcher. The folksy makeup of the reed and wind instruments feel like time itself is stretching out as they circle around the chords. That leads us into the 21-minute ‘Delta Sleep (Live at 4.33am)’. Over the duration of the track, a main motif repeats over and over that descends down the notes and warm analogue percussion and xylophones glisten around the hand pan. It sounds very similar in tone to what Amiina creates as a band. Of course, delta sleep itself lasts around 20 minutes and whilst you can’t exactly line them up, its a wonderful concept. ‘Draem’ then rapidly picks up the pace as your sleep patterns allow for bursts of brain activity to explode. The pace and ferocity increase as the drums, tuned percussion (now sounding more like a steel drum) rattle and shake. It’s not aggressive, its more like a freefalling experience.
The album then concludes with the single ‘Zeitgeber’. Its name comes from the natural cue that synchronises our circadian rhythms and the tracks dramatic marching patterns shine on this concept. Many of the instruments join up in unison and follow the same marching band theme as everything joins together and rises up. It’s anthemic in its wonderfully weird way and I can see fans of jazz bands like GoGo Penguin loving this.
It’s another concept album, another success for Manu Delago. Circadian falls somewhere closer to Parasol Peak than Metromonk as his ensemble sound has a real caravan feel to it. It is a wonderfully expressive album on an interesting concept and I’m sure it’ll be creating many dreams for listeners in the years to come.
Recommended track: Zeitgeber
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