The Blind Watchmaker
Feature article by Michael Casano on Buzz Communications (USA)
Artist of the Month: Mana ERG
The Blind Watchmaker, in my opinion, is one of the best, most challenging, and rewarding releases of 2004. In this day and age of maximum profit, sticking to one’s vision and bucking current trends is a rather precarious task and can be a prescription for disaster. Often times, taking this stance can lead to ridicule or, even worse, creative isolation. Great art is defined, not only by the application of talent, but also by sincere effort and artistic integrity. The band Mana ERG, led by Bruno De Angelis, has plenty of these necessary ingredients in critical abundance.
Surrounding oneself with talented friends and colleagues can make an incredibly difficult task at hand seem possible to accomplish. De Angelis has had the good fortune to have great musical friends that have offered advice, inspiration, and musical support at critical times. As The Blind Watchmaker took eighteen months to complete, the recording process and creative details became leviathan in nature. But Mana ERG persevered, and this willingness to wrestle with uncertainty and hardship paid off.
One such friend of De Angelis’ is esteemed composer Artemiy Artemiev, son of legendary film composer Edward Artemiev, who was best known for scoring the Tarkovsky films Solaris, The Mirror, and Stalker. Artemiy contributed a loop sequence to the song “Wasps” and, according to De Angelis, was instrumental in getting Dieter Moebius (Cluster) interested in contributing source material for use in The Blind Watchmaker. This is what De Angelis stated about having Dieter Moebius aboard:
“It was such a thrill to get a handwritten letter from him, saying how much he liked Borderliners [Mana Erg’s previous release] and that he felt honored to be asked to contribute to our next production…he felt honored! Imagine me!! I never actually met him, but he was kind enough to let me use some synth parts that he had programmed, leaving me free to manipulate them in any way I liked. It was great fun!!”
It was these synth parts by Dieter Moebius that Mana ERG used in the song “Novi Mir.” According to an interview at Chain D.L.K. Bruno stated that “Novi Mir” “embodies the whole album, in its attempt to cross over not only genres but generations.”
Another piece of the recording puzzle was the inclusion of Martin Bowes (Attrition). According to De Angelis “Martin was the perfect person for the job of mastering The Blind Watchmaker. We have many things in common in the way we work, including being almost unbearably fussy about getting the right sounds. Martin has always understood what I wanted and did a great job.”
And then there are the talented core members of Mana ERG: Joe Erber, vocalist Deborah Roberts, and Tiberio. Without their valuable input and hard work, it would have been difficult for The Blind Watchmaker to have ever been completed, let alone become such a great album. Besides the influence of band mates, there are also secondary influences that can be just as valuable in aiding the creative process. These are the unplanned inspirational bits of real life, spliced together in non-linear fashion as if in a dream, where the pastoral English countryside morphs into a busy airport, and where the fracas of frantic voices can just as quickly become the lone voice of a singing bird. Despite Mana ERG’s predilection for combining modern technology and electronic music, the band’s music is always cinematic, poetic, and touchingly human.
Other bands can also provide inspiration. For De Angelis, two bands tend to stand out from the pack. One band is Clock DVA. “I definitely owe them a lot. I learned many tricks of the trade from Adi Newton & Co. I think they are unfairly underrated compared with better known bands.” Another band is The Residents. “The Residents also have been important for me, but for different reasons. They make you look at things from unusual perspectives. Sometimes, when I get stuck on a piece of music that I’m writing, I just stop and listen to one of their songs at random.” Two albums Bruno described as having an incredible influence on him are Fugazi’s A Steady Diet of Nothing and My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless.
What is very apparent upon listening to The Blind Watchmaker is the cinematic feel of the music. Not surprisingly, De Angelis has also recently been involved in composing music for the independent film Resident of Earth, by London director Paul Tarragó. “I’m fascinated by the ability that some directors have to show you something very ordinary, like an object that you see every day… and suddenly it’s like you’re seeing it for the first time. I hope I will have more opportunities in the future to make music for films.”
It is the independent spirit of Bruno De Angelis and Mana ERG that have made them so unique, along with their willingness to experiment. It is this experimental spirit found in independent art scenes worldwide; where sincerity and integrity will always thrive and courageous creative endeavors will continue to prosper. Until the music stops, it is where you will find Mana ERG.
“This is completely outside commercial circles, and if on the one hand this means that we can express ourselves more freely, on the other hand it also means that we will remain poor… but what the hell… if I ever did anything interesting in life it was never for the money.”