In many ways, Cue Dot Records and Manfred Hamil are a perfect fit. Cut Dot, with its references to cinematic production. Manfred Hamil with a reputation for making electronica that is cinematic in scope. His latest album Everything Fades is certainly cinematic in scope. Put simply it is a brilliant album and one that I expect to cross over and become very popular.
What do I mean by cross over? There is plenty here for veteran fans of electronic music to pore over and to enjoy but there are also moments on this album that could feasibly appeal to mainstream music fans. In a sense that says a lot about the album’s diverse content and the journey that it takes you on. There are ups and downs, high and lows throughout the record. One minute you’re listening to a pulsing swirl of synth or keyboard noise over a tinny hi-hat style beat. The next you’re in a moment of calm, like Constructive Reflection’s two minutes of eastern meditation.
The opening track is one of those that could well see this album attracting a wider listenership. The title is Asphyxiated, though to me the opposite appears to be true here. There’s a feeling of freedom; or of being free again at last. Perhaps it is the feeling of being able to breathe again after asphyxiation. Whatever the meaning behind the track, the vocal of a single word – breathe – gives the song a sense of both purpose and elegance. On first listen it had a post-club feel, along the lines of Bonobo’s The North Borders. There are other similar moments on the album, where the mood feels chilled despite the glitched out beats that appear on numerous tracks.
Defect Analysis is a song with that style of beat, yet the mood there is different; odd and scientific. It conjures images of early electronic music pioneers, in a lab experimenting and exploring a new electric terrain. One of the key features of the album is how it tumbles from euphoric highs to subdued or even slightly dark comedown moments but never in a way that feels unwieldy or chaotic. Whatever this journey is, it makes sense. And it sounds good!
An example of this switch in atmosphere would be the two tracks Forgotten What I Came For and Gradual Falling From A Better State.
Forgotten… is a beautiful piece, carried along by chiming bells or Tibetan bowls. The misty atmosphere has a feeling of Terry Riley at his most soothing and melodic. The next track is Gradual Falling From A Better State, though there is nothing particularly gradual about it. The fall has been sharp. The atmosphere is urgent and tense. There’s a deep house or techno edge to this one. And then the mood of the album changes again, straight into Hope. There is a journey taking place here, full of experiences and emotions but it isn’t necessarily linear and it doesn’t carry any particular meaning. With that mind this record makes sense in the context of life, with all the highs and lows that accompany it.
Hope is gorgeous and… well yes, hopeful. Opening with a brass ambience, I was reminded of British Sea Power’s From the Sea to the Land Beyond before it melts into a chillwave beat and just flows. It just holds itself perfectly as a piece of music for a couple of minutes before fading. Simple yet striking. The founder of Cue Dot Records, Paul aka Lippy Kid told me a story about listening to this record for the first time whilst watching the coverage of the US Presidential election. As I sit now listening to Everything Fades I imagine that to be a truly glorious experience, with Hope playing as the count started to tilt in Joe Biden’s favour.
Keiron’s Heart is another song that could reach beyond avid electronica fans and hit the spot with the casual listener. The beat is progressive and glitchy but the strings that dominate the track take it to a completely different dimension. They sound South East Asian or African in origin and create a unique moment on the album before the final song Long Nights Sleep carries us away into a dreamscape that offers an opportunity for the listener to decide what the album has been trying to tell them all along. It is a lovely finish that creates an atmosphere open to reflection and interpretation. Rising after a long sleep? Waking up in a new and better world? The calm has arrived after surviving some stormy weather? The spring is here, never forget the winter? Who knows?
Each listener will be touched by this album in a different way. There’s a very human feel to the record in places, which isn’t always the case with electronica and other electric music. Even a soulfulness. It’s brilliantly produced and musically there are some stunning moments but I think that sense of humanness that the album invokes is what makes it stand out. If I was Paul at Cue Dot, I think I might release a few more CD versions of this one, as I can see it selling and selling well. Regardless of its popularity or how it sells, the thing of overriding importance here is that Manfred Hamil has produced an exquisite album of electronic music. Great art should always be celebrated and this is great art.