OLD REVIEWS

This short selection of  Press Reviews is an introduction to the music of Bruno De Angelis and Mana ERG, and refers to the most significant releases prior to the birth of the XBDA label:

“Red Dust” (CD single) 2006

“Red Dust” is a 3-track CD single from the UK-based Mana ERG, fronted by the singer-songwriter Bruno De Angelis. Haunting and involving, with carefully-crafted arrangements, it brings the energy of industrial to the delicate world of ethereal soundscapes.

The overall mood of this record is emotionally involving and constantly evolving. The rhythm and the intensity keep changing throughout the songs making it interesting to listen to and wondering what would follow next. If you are just skipping through the record, the sudden switch from the ambient electronica sound to the aggressive industrial beat may be unexpected, however in the context of each song, feels natural and doesn’t throw you off. Analog-sounding bass sequences (Moog-inspired?) feel like a nod to the early 70s electronic pioneers, yet not only sound completely up-to-date, but also fit perfectly into the texture of the record helping to add to the character and to set the consistent tone… interesting vocal harmonies and the back vocals worked extremely well and added both depth and complexity making this record to truly stand out of the crowd. Allsynthpop (Canada)

About “The Blind Watchmaker” (2004):

Mana ERG is the brainchild of vocalist/programmer/multi-instrumentalist Bruno De Angelis. Filled out by a number of other musicians including female vocalist Deborah Roberts and an entire choir on “Burning Fields”, The Blind Watchmaker is something of a genre-defying blend of industrial, ethereal, ebm, electronica, and rock elements. Notably mastered by Martin Bowes of Attrition fame, the disc’s 9 tracks feature extremely intricate production and the interesting and often almost disorienting juxtaposition of antagonistic musical elements and genres while remaining remarkably cohesive. Clean breakbeats will unexpectedly and immediately be replaced with completely different distorted percussive loops. Processed noise and distorted industrial guitar riffing will abruptly give way to mellow ethereal passages with operatic vocals. While this would normally seem a bit contrived and gimmicky, perhaps being considered an attempt at pretentious experimentalism, it works to the album’s advantage here, creating a dizzying and ever-changing experimental yet coherent musical world…If you’re sick of boring mainstream industrial rehashes, then Mana ERG is for you.   – Joshua Heinrich – Grave Concerns (U.S.A.)

…the music of Mana ERG is hard to describe and hard to file; it covers many grounds and finds its strength in rare qualities such as dynamism and eclecticism. “The Blind Watchmaker”‘s multifaceted production extends from electronic to dark, in a journey that encompasses so many genres and influences that it’s hard to even keep track of your own mood and state of mind as you are violently pulled through its smooth soundscapes. The overall sort of “noir” approach brings that nice ill and sinister halo to the table, and you’ll definitely recognize influences of early NIN (in particular think of Reznor doing his nasty and dirty slow pieces with piano or guitar loops, much rather than him screaming away over walls of distortion) when the atmospheres get cloudy and slow or when Bruno’s collaborators Joe Erber (piano) and Tiberio (guitar) add their touch to the ill-lighten suites…The addition of d’n’b breaks and other sophisticated rhythmical figures might remind you of Apell and definitely some late Clock DVA. Young Gods-type sonorities are ready to take off on the wings of buttered IDM loops that wouldn’t look out of place in some Boards of Canada/Autechre or other Warp artist’s album….The album was mastered by Attrition’s mastermind Martin Bowes, and this is no coincidence since Mana ERG definitely looks up to the sound of Attrition or of similar bands such as Die Form. Bastard, Legendary Pink Dots, Visions of Excess are some of the other bands that populated my mind while going through these tracks… Ultimately the electronic texturing of the record really shows great attitude and consciousness and builds intense statements and ballsy presence on minimalist structures that convey great sense of musicianship. It’s such a diverse recording you’ll have to listen to it many many times to even get a grasp of its complexity, which is great considering how basic the instrumental approach is. I have been listening to this for a few days now and if I didn’t have to move on to the next batch in the pile, I’d probably keep going to appreciate all of the shadows and shades of its wide palette and array of sonics. Great record.”     – Marc Urselli Schaerer – New York Chain DLK (U.S.A)

“…Bruno has a great voice, being the scalding man, frequently offset by Deborah Roberts having a beautiful voice…The rhythms are robust and the textures tough. It has sinister lyrics, politely conveyed, and when it’s musically pretty it’s usually being totally deceptive and setting you up for a nasty shock…”   – Mick Mercer – Starvox (U.K.)

…. Dark and compelling, cynical and aggressive in its messages, but deceivingly sweet and calm in their display, “The Blind Watchmaker” is an album of constant contradicting elements struggling against each other and resulting in an absolutely brilliant set of music that could more easily define a new genre than belong to one. With its truly remarkable artistic quality, it brings Mana ERG way above many of the most “touted” electronic acts, leaving space for the usual question as to where music would be nowadays if better acts got some well-deserved promotion and received more interest from major labels. Connexion Bizarre

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About “Borderliners”(2002):

“Mana ERG is, essentially, the music of Bruno De Angelis. While defying any convenient categories, Mana ERG’s music has elements of electronic ambience, muted industrial soundscapes, and the tripped-out lyrical abyss reminiscent of the Legendary Pink Dots. The six tracks run slightly over twenty-six minutes, so this is not a CD jam-packed with music. However, where the quantity might be lacking, the quality of the music is certainly more than compensatory. The songs on “Borderliners” are richly textured and well conceived, and are completely devoid of catchy hooks and melodious intent. This is a CD built perfectly for headphones, as the album’s intimacy offers the listener safe passage upon entering the convoluted labyrinth of sound. A strong track such as “Painted Faces” highlights this collection of challenging, yet engaging, music.” Industrial Nation (U.S.A.)

“It’s difficult to pigeonhole their sound. Firstly there’s an urge to communicate within their songs – indeed it sometimes sounds like an accompanied spoken work album much in the way CLOCK DVA or ATTRITION sometimes delved almost into Film Noir narrative. Add to this some rounded chants and poker-hot vocal motifs, all fitting contentedly into the musical core. And as for the music, it seems to span many genres without taking more than a hint from any one. Mostly I guess, I’d say they were aiming for something akin to film soundtrack, assimilating various elements of Rock and perhaps the dramatically darker moments of Goth. …and yet it is none too much like any of these comparisons. What they have here is a rich and somewhat unique sound which delves into dark corners with bright, warming illumination.” Metamorphic Journeyman (U.K.)

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