If you were expecting a non-stop floor-filler from the Irish Berlin-based producer you’ll be disappointed by this debut album. Instead it’s an even better well-crafted album of substance…
In January, I predicted a big year for Mano Le Tough. The producer has spent a few years building up a reputation as a DJ and producer with EP releases. Those tracks like 2011’s ‘In My Arms’ and 2012’s ‘Mountains’ showcased a club-friendly uplifting house music sound. Remixes for Roisin Murphy and Aloe Blacc naturally went further in that direction.
For the debut album, Niall Mannion makes the leap to the format with “songs” and consistency rather than “tracks” which sound good on a 12″ or dancefloor. There’s still that deft touch for creating a euphoric palette of sound here but Changing Days is primarily interested cerebral uplift than moving feet so Mano’s arrangements are more open, explorations of house music-set moods.
The vernacular of the album’s framework is, of course, dance music, particularly house, informed by Mannion’s spending years of week-in week-out DJing controlling and experiencing parties in Berlin so there’s a natural tilt to proceedings. The shift downwards is a suitable one in terms of allowing room for the unfurling of hypnotic melodies, atmosphere and Mano’s own sung vocals; the first time they are to the forefront.
Mannion’s vocals add depth and emotion to already passionate instrumentals. His synthesised plea on ‘Please’ provides the weight to the track, as well as a foil to the untreated soulful hook while the relatively simple vocals on ‘Everything You’ve Done Before’, ‘Cannibalize’ and ‘Primitive People’ are endearing in their flawed delivery.
Mano lets the album breathe with instrumental songs. Bell melodies hypnotise, synths rise like orchestral tones, piano notes bring the house music characteristics. ‘Dreaming Youth’ gets the pulse racing to suspenseful synth drones, woodblock percussion and clicks while the synthesizers pan from left to right with a shimmering gauze. The only time the elegant mood is broken is ‘The Sea Inside’ which dispenses the tension for a tropical bounce and a wave goodbye from the beach for the final song.
That Changing Days is released on Permanent Vacation, the home to John Talabot’s own brand of contemplative house music, is fitting. Mannion veers closest to sounding like him on the title track ‘Changing Days’, a track which conjures cinematic vistas. Changing Days, the album, serves as an astute companion to Talabot’s own debut from last year ƒIN and puts Mano Le Tough up to the top in terms of electronic albums made by producers in the last few years. No guests vocalists or gimmicks required.