MANITOBA with FOUR TET and PREFUSE 73 at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), Tuesday (May 27). $15. 416-532-1598. Rating: NNNNN
even two years ago when dan Snaith was promoting Manitoba's remarkable Start Breaking My Heart debut, you got the feeling he wasn't buying the whole "folktronica" business.Fans and critics would compare his textured electronic songs to Boards of Canada, and Snaith would respond by saying that he grew up listening to folk and pop, not people making beats on their laptops. To prove it, he's released one of the year's most spectacular pure pop records.
Manitoba's new Up In Flames disc is neither folky nor "electronica." A delicate, at times overwhelmingly dense record, Up In Flames is a 21st-century psychedelic gem, a proper pop record created on a beat-up computer loaded with pirated software.
"I kind of expected everyone to say 'What the fuck, this guy was supposed to make an IDM record,'" Snaith laughs from his London pad. "I just said, 'Fuck this' and made the album I wanted to make. I'm happy that I have the freedom to move around and do what I want. That's definitely what I was going to do whether people liked it or whether the record was even released."
In truth, the leap between the pastoral breakbeat soundscapes of Start Breaking My Heart and the more streamlined pop songs of Up In Flames isn't that vast. ("I don't have that many tricks up my sleeve," he snorts.)
A more pronounced pop tone and the sheer number of sounds crammed into each track aside, the most noticeable difference is Snaith's shocking coming out as a singer.
"It's fucking ridiculous," he roars. "I literally cannot sing a note. I had to record the vocals in tiny little chunks and then do them a hundred times until one was roughly in tune. It's just absurd that I've put out a record with me singing on it.
"Most of the time the vocals are just the textures of the voice, not some singer/songwriter shit.
"I suppose I could have got someone else in to sing the songs, but I'm such a fucking bastard to work with and so obsessive about every little detail that I would have driven someone insane. If you collaborate with people, it's hard to be that much of an asshole and not get punched."
Snaith has been forced to brush up his interpersonal skills lately. He's put away his laptop and is touring with a full live band rather than as a one-man show.
"When I finished the album, I realized there was no way I could get up onstage with a laptop and try to play it," Snaith explains. "That whole thing is really odd. You either get 1,000 people dancing or people sitting down on the floor watching me.
"The music has adapted itself really naturally to playing itself live. It's a lot more active and in your face than most people would expect the show to be. We've got two drummers, and by the end we're just sweating and bleeding and in tears. You can't really dance to this, but at the good shows people start jumping up and down and wigging out."