Manitoba
Up In Flames

By Elizabeth Wells

 
Manitoba has always been seen as a pre-eminent darling of the Leaf label. In fact he’s prime press fodder, being both outspoken and evidently talented at the same time. The fact that he – Dan Snaith – is still only 24, gets pundits dribbling down their chins even more.

On this latest release, Snaith has gone technicolour with his production, jettisoning the traditional cargo of laptops favoured by his peers for a thoroughly big-band sound, featuring drums, strings, glockenspiels, and even singing for his supper. He is still using much of the same electronic equipment as before, but he has thickened out the sound with new textures and approaches, which distance him from the laptop crowd. The result is a hedonistic, but rarely overcooked album, which looks back to a range of influences: the sunshine pop of the Beach Boys, the Madchester scene of the late eighties early nineties and the swirling psychedelia of the 60s.

There are some truly stunning tracks: the opening I’ve Lived on a Dirt Road All My Life, in which Snaith’s spacey vocals are given a kind of reversed echo, which augments the psychedelic effect of the drums and guitars, and conjures up the lonely wastes of rural America. This feeling is carried into Skunks, the next track, in which the sound of bullfrogs and country guitars introduce a rolling kaleidoscope of sounds that you can almost see colours (this synaesthesic effect is also something Beck knows how to do). Another favourite of mine is Hendrix with Ko, in which sidekick vocalist Koushik does a fair imitation of 60s Californian vocals, but strangely manages to come over all Stone Roses as well. Accompanied by shimmering strings, this sounds like a new anthem for the hippy trail. You almost expect Timothy Leary to turn up in his Magic Bus.

Not all of it works consistently well; by contrast with the real beauties, the single Jacknuggeted sounds lacklustre, but overall as a whole, this unusual and finely crafted album should shine for some time to come.
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