Manna / Mirage – Autobiographie (2023)

Manna/Mirage - Autobiographie (2023)
Artist: Manna / Mirage
Album: Autobiographie
Genre: Progressive Rock, Jazz Rock, Canterbury Scene, Fusion
Label: New House Music
Year Of Release: 2023
Quality: FLAC (tracks+.cue)

1. Phantosmia (6:30)
2. Rounded by Sleep (8:36)
3. Practicing Tonglin in a Time of War (4:13)
4. Section W (4:56)
5. There Was a Time (2:21)
6. Close the Sky (5:52)
7. Instant Cloud Effect (3:18)
8. Love Song for a Country (5:30)
9. Hope (5:00)


– Dave Newhouse / keyboards, reeds, guitars (1,4), kalimba (2), accordion (3), harmonica (6), everything (4,7)

– Sean Rickman / drums (1,2,5,6,8)
– Guy Segers / bass (1,6)
– Michael Zentner / electric violin (1)
– Jerry King / trombone (1-3), bass (2,3)
– Mark Stanley / guitar (2,6,8)
– Michael Bass / drums (3)
– Forrest Fang / violin (3)
– Rich O’Meara / marimba (6), mallets, bells, percussion (8)
– Dereck Higgins / bass (8)
– Luciano Margorani / guitar (9)

Dave Newhouse and his ever-growing, ever-impressive collective of collaborators is back with yet another installment of the Manna / Mirage offshoot of the old Avant-Canterbury band, The Muffins. Sadly, Dave serves notice with this album that this is “the last” of the Manna / Mirage project releases.

1. “Phantosmia” (6:30) very interesting for its unusual (for Dave) rhythm track. Saxophone and Michael Zentner’s Eddie Jobson-like violin lead us through the first three minutes but then the horn section takes over in the foreground while individual instruments try to vie for attention from behind the wall of winds. In the fifth minute the band falls into the Rock Creek as Jannick Top-like single-pluck bass notes reverberate in order to keep the song moving above multiple reverse guitar tracks. Interesting. (8.75/10)

2. “Rounded by Sleep” (8:36) great steady mini-big band foundation that reminds me of Herbie Hancock’s 1970s music in the late 1960s and early 1970s sits beneath some really awesome fuzz-saw guitar playing from Mark Stanley. At 4:00 Mark’s play and the drums and bass cut out and we’re left with a Phillip Glass-like tuned percussion weave within which trombone, woodwinds, and piano play a little bit. Then, at 6:20, a new kalimba, bass, and electric piano weave fades in and takes over. Lots of tuned percussion joins in and VERY cool three-part song! (18.75/20)

3. “Practicing Tonglin in a Time of War” (4:13) accordion and piano start up this European street song before drums, percussion, and bass join in. Second (or third?) accordion track doubles a violin to carry the melody for the first two minutes before a shift into a more Gypsy-klezmer-like weave incorporating horns and winds occurs. Now the violin and accordion are carrying one melody while the horns and winds carry a completely different one. At times it feels as if five or six separate melody lines are all woven together! (9/10)

4. “Section W” (4:56) a weave of stringed instruments: bass, guitar, percussed electric guitar, even banjo (dobro?) are all cycling within a steady repeating flow. Once established, radio tuning noises are strung into the mix giving it a Holger Czukay sound and feel. But then low flute (shakuhachi?) enters–on multiple tracks–providing a whole different feel and texture. (9/10)

5. “There Was a Time” (2:21) one of those classic beautiful piano-based chord progression songs that only Dave seems to be able to generate. Organ tracks, drums, keyboard bass, and some reeds provide most of the instrumentation for this little “soundtrack” ditty. (4.5/5)

6. “Close the Sky (5:52) a song of several parts, Guy Segers’ heavily-treated bass and Mark Stanley’s heavily-treated muted guitar play provide most of the foundational stuff for the first two minutes while reeds and harmonica provide entertainment on the sides, but then marimba takes the place of Mark’s guitar for a minute, but then he returns for another solo–still playing off of Guy’s interesting jazz bass. Then formally horn section step in to take the fore, providing their own tight melody as drummer Sean Rickman freestyles. (9/10)

7. “Instant Cloud Effect (3:18) opens with a descending chord progression of Fender Rhodes electric piano, bass, flutes, and clarinet, a pattern that is repeated with interludes of a second motif for the flutes and clarinet to do some flitting and flying off on their own. Nice. Peaceful. (8.875/10)

8. “Love Song for a Country” (5:30) slow and melancholy, this one feels as if the entire band are all on the same page–in the same mood–thus the song’s overall feeling of uniformity–of the band’s entrainment and indivisibility. It would’ve been interesting to hear this with Nick Prol’s vocals. Nice avant garde guitar soloing from Mark Stanley in the last 90 seconds. Dave sure has a genius for great, nostalgic chord piano progressions. (9/10)

9. “Hope” (5:00) like Dave’s swan song. I feel as if I’m listening to Dexter Gordon’s playing from the film ‘Round Midnight. (8.875/10)

Total Time 46:16

I swear, Dave’s productions, compositions, and ideas just keep getting better and better with each successive album release. Beginning with 2015’s wonderful surprise, Blue Dogs, through Rest of the Time, Face, and 2021’s Man Out of Time (my favorite), the music has continued to evolve as it expresses and fulfills many of Dave’s old ideas with new inspirations and inputs.

I really love how Dave puts detailed descriptions of the songwriting, studio recording, and evolution of each song into his album’s “liner notes.” It’s a fascinating insight into the inner workings of the artist and his process.

I’d like to add how much I enjoyed Sean Rickman’s drumming; his is by far my favorite drumming on a Manna/Mirage album.

A-/five stars; another minor masterpiece of progressive jazz-rock fusion from one of the longest-running, hardest working masters of the Canterbury Scene, Dave “The Muffin Man” Newhouse. Highly recommended. With this album and his previous release, 2021’s Man Out of Time, you have two delightful masterpieces of the sub-genre.
Review by BrufordFreak

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