Published on 11th November 2017
I Am The Manic Whale – Gathering the Waters
Okay, another crowd funder and another punt not heard. No idea beforehand but very satisfied with the results. I could end it there, that could be the review! But it deserves more, another sentence at least. The riff that opens it pierced my heart like a harpoon, surely not an album of ’70s based metal riffs, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and no doubt sundry other metaphorical colours? Fortunately not as The Man With Many Faces slides in to a tale with Canterbury-like vocal renderings, seemingly about The Doctor, yes that one, written I assume before the announced sex change twist. Riffs aside, all is well, and the tail is related.
The Milgram Experiment relates to the experiments of Edward Milgram, also covered by Peter Gabriel, a social experiment where participants were told to apply increasingly severe electrical current to subjects who answered questions incorrectly, perhaps an over simplification, but still an example of poor experimental ethics. Less disturbed than the PG song, but a fair and accurate representation all the same.
Since listening to this I have heard the first album, Everything Beautiful In Time, in itself rather good, but continuing, as are musicians wants, to wear many of your influences on your sleeve. It is a good album, but Gathering the Waters establishes very much more of a personal identity for Manic Whale and is the better for it. The first, as said, not without merit, but the lists of styles covered could fill a small encyclopaedia. So, I won’t.
Strandbeest is the stand out track for me, epic at times, just a series of simple pieces joined together around a theme, that theme being the inspirational creatures created by Theo Jansen. Eerie, wind driven creatures, reflected In the use of acoustic and electronic instrumentation. If you have ever seen these creatures move then you’ll know what I mean. Lyrically and in terms of vocal interpretation the phrasing is very similar to Big Big Train; it tells stories, and by that is suited as a style use rather than be considered a copy, besides BBT is more historical, this is more modern history. There is room for both. Descriptive, accurately so, captivating, mesmerising, walking on the wind. If you think Big Big Train’s The Transit of Venus Across The Sun, but very different, it has the same feel. A masterpiece to my ears.
Manic Whale are observational, the words reflect what they see, be it abstract (Strandbeest) or more domestic, it has a lot of charm. The Lifeboatmen is both domestic and relating to the courage of their chosen public service, it probably isn’t related but my mind wanders to the Cornish ports of Mousehole and St. Ives (Mousehole being the home of the Penlee lifeboat). Heartfelt, touching, it does make you think if you have lived near the sea. Strange for a band from Reading, but there are lots of strange things from there, including me!
I’ll Interlude You In A Minute, a musical whimsy but it’s a lovely interlude before the 18-minute Stand Up, which is another great piece, seeking to make some noise a la Big Big Train, and it does, and though my heart is taken by the Strandbeest, this is not bad either. Musically of its own, self-deprecating lyrics, and very much of that Canterbury set. While we sit waiting for the heroes of old to produce another masterpiece, quietly in the shadows great music is being produced; turn the lights on. Yes, you may hear reflections in the musical mirror of artists past but I Am The Manic Whale have with their second album developed an identity. Anyone in Tufnell Park on 3rd December, spend some pennies (£18) to see the 13:00 band at Masquerade II at The Boston Music Room. Their introduction will bring me a lot of pleasure.
There are lots of long songs here, but nothing seems long, which is the mark of good writing, every second seems right. No padding, no fillers, and a pleasure that grows with repeated listens. I could almost succumb to the vinyl, if it existed. One (Hopeful Song) is an album recap, and, once it gets going, is uplifting and a fine way to end a beautiful album. Now is the time of year when I am asked to select from the numerous pieces I have heard the albums that have made my year. I do not rank, every piece has its moment, but with this it is straight into that top five.
Much as I am against any exploitation of the cetaceans, purchase this album, it’s so delicious. For the completist, and because it is rather good too, buy Everything Is Beautiful In Time; there you may experience the guitar virtuosity.
01. The Man With Many Faces (7:32)
02. The Milgram Experiment (7:54)
03. The Lifeboatmen (11:22)
04. Strandbeest (13:33)
05. I’ll Interlude You In A Minute (1:26)
06. Stand Up (18:30)
07. One (Hopeful Song) (7:50)
Total Time – 68:07
Ben Hartley – Drums, Percussion, Strandbeest Xylophone & Backing Vocals
Jon Murphy – Keyboards, Murphatron, Backing Vocals & Second Lead Vocal (1)
David Addis – Electric & Acoustic Guitars & Backing Vocals
Michael Whiteman – Bass Guitar, Bass Pedals, 12-string Electric & Acoustic Guitars, Lead & Backing Vocals, Percussion & Strombelief
Ella Lloyd – Flute (3,4 & 6)
Matthew Talks – Cello (6)
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 30th October 2017