20 Dec 2018
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Manzo - Album Review: Outsider

12 Sep 2017 // A review by Alex Moulton

With minimal introduction, the new Manzo album begins with St Helens Overture; a lovely, calm, delicate piano piece. A rather impressive beginning, with a gentle crescendo, showing great use of refrain leading into the rest of the album. It does, misrepresent the album to an extent, as it leaves you caught off-guard as it moves on to the second track Monochrome Men - A Medley.

Extending over nine minutes in length, with four guest vocalists/musicians, the track is nothing if not ambitious. Transitioning from a synth dance pop track combined with hip-hop vocals, into a gluggy rock piece with some superb Santana and Pink Floyd-esque solos, and even beyond that. Up until the halfway mark, the vocals are decidedly out-of-place, resulting from the production of the song rather than the mixing of the genres. The vocals have impeccable clarity, which works great for discerning lyrical comprehension, but it also highlights any inconsistencies in tone, and the coherence separates the vocals from the music to the point that it does not feel like it is part of the same piece. After the first four minutes, the track finds a style that works and gets a nice balance for the remainder of the track.

Instrumentally, the music is moving. Manzo has an eclectic, experimental style, combining a variety of instruments into vocal genres that are out-of-the-norm. The timing and instrument choices are spot-on and create a unique aggregate that is invigorating to listen to. As an instrumental album, this would be up there as one of the best I have heard in recent times. Unfortunately, the vocal aspect of the album is the downfall for the initial tracks. With such a variety of song styles and vocalists, the album requires a level of cohesiveness between vocals and music. A number of moments in the album exhibited vocal irregularities in tone and key, with the clarity of the production placing the spotlight on them. Allowing the vocals to step back and giving the instruments more of the forefront would have benefited the overall mix.

Highlights on the album were a cover of the 2005 Depeche Mode single, Precious, from the album Playing the Angel, (an upbeat but melancholic track which displayed simplicity and vocal style reminiscent of Blondie), and Sacra (a haunting beautiful track that needs no lyrics), but the standout track is that of Loco. With a piano/violin introduction, and stark, polarizing spoken vocals, the track comes off like a modern Pink Floyd; erratic, unconventional and distinctive. An unexpected treat.

There is a lot of potential here, with many good tracks. More time collaborating with the right vocalists, and a better mix when producing is all that is missing to take the album from good to great.


Review written by Alex Moulton

 

About Manzo

Manzo is the musical alias of outsider visual artist and frustrated public servant, Alan Hodgetts. Alan has never been shy about experimenting, using any medium or channel to communicate his ideas. Music gives a popular platform to share his observations and social commentary, whilst providing greater opportunity for creative collaboration.

Outsider is Manzo's second studio album. It features a range of guest vocalists and musicians from the Wellington region.
Very topical themes of corporate greed, politics, masculinity and social pressure, are woven with tales of loss and love, but in an ultimately uplifting album full of humour and hope.
Infusing pop, rock, electronic, classical, hip hop and dance, along with some blatant ‘80s and ‘90s vibes, the music reflects Manzo’s broad musical influences, and also his refusal to be pigeon holed and constrained by genre.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Manzo

Releases

Outsider
Year: 2017
Type: Album
Ultramarine
Year: 2016
Type: Album

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