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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
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Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Mat Maneri
Thirsty Ear

Rating: 10/10 ?

January 16, 2006
This is Mat Maneri's third Blue Series installment, and comes as Easter eggs around Christmas time. Not one to sit idle for long, Maneri has a fine treat for all lovers of jazz impressionism. His violin playing is mesmerizing, and his attention to detail is so anti-scholastic that it arranges room for others to sit and learn. Shuffling through the entire album, one must note the sweeping, bruised grace of Maneri's vault-scrappings on "Inslut", which makes up one of the very best offerings of recent memory in the jazz/hip-hop intersection.

There is no filler to be found on Pentagon, and it is safe to say that a year or two from now it will remain a classic in its own right. It does reveal cracks at its edges, though, notably on disassembled gems like "Third Hand - The Fallen", but little imperfections were never supposed to blunt the core of creativity. From the blurring landscape that the aforementioned track triggers, to the earthy laments of "Howl in My Head/Motherless Child", Maneri proves to be the wizard that astutely augments the flutter on the tape to make it pass through the portals of escapism that his music forces open.

Cuts like "Witches Woo" should be played at an insanely high volume, so as to allow its instrumental howls to blossom, neatly interchanged with the microtonal strings. This record also features Thirsty Ear veterans Craig Taborn (on Fender Rhodes and laptop) and Tom Rainey (on drums) alongside Mat's world-renowned father, Joe Maneri (organs, acoustic and electric pianos, alto sax, and voice). But it is Indian master musician T.K. Ramakrishnan's mridungdum (aka mridangam, which is the South Indian complement to the pakhawaj and the most important drum of the Carnatic music) that sprinkles the jazzy numbers with magic, percussive garnish.

Stating that Maneri's violin at times resembles "a human voice", as the press release does, is not overheating the hype to make the musician profitable in the industry; it's underlining the provocative style of someone who feels his heart beat mightily where his fingers are. In this sense, there's a theoretical shamanism going on throughout the record (even if it includes abstract titles like "The War Room" or "An Angel Passes By"), which almost builds an electronic chapel in which tribute can be paid to its pagan gods.

A female, pristine-like voice (credited to Sonja, another member of the Maneri clan) erupts on "Howl in My Head/Motherless Child", but its presence is merely decorative as the instruments executed here are like syllables tossed out of their collective mouths. Later on, the title track brings back that human touch through Joe's voice, pasted onto a background of percussive, surreal effects.

Please mind my words: these are not party-tested beats, but rather a suitable compagnon de route for those times when you're driving late at night; or when you're smoking the post-coital cigarette with your loved one. Maybe you'll find a handful of records this year that rival Pentagon in those departments, but few provide as convincing an argument as Maneri's offering, for either instance.

Pentagon is a tour de force, and I do not state lightly that the contemporary jazz history may require complete redrafting in light of it. It may be just me, but this sounds like the jazz intellectual's next wet dream; and if this is not a good reason for the books to be rewritten, I don't know what it is.

Reviewed by Helder Gomes
Currently living on the south bank of the Tagus river, in Portugal, Helder Gomes is a working class hero. He is a journalist for the local radio station Rádio Nova Anten. In his spare time, he skates and watches many odd movies. He is in love with the French nouvelle vague, and the Danish/Swedish invasion. He writes for a number of publications, on the Internet or otherwise, notably the underground Portuguese magazine Mondo Bizarre, and the Jazz Review website. He is also the news collector and a staff witer for the adorable Lost at Sea. Oh, and there is also the Coffee Breakz radio show that he tries to host every Saturday.

See other reviews by Helder Gomes



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