mankymusic

mank

gutta-percha

2013, mankymusic015

The majority of this album was written on a Canadian icebreaker on the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska - for my day job I work on ships making oceanographic measurements and as such I spend a lot of time bobbing around at sea near the North Pole. Making music lets me escape to my own world away from the ship but I hope that the beauty of the location comes through in my music, there are a lot of field recordings embedded in the mix. A couple of the tracks are made purely out of field recordings made on the ship; "Systaltic" is made from a recording of salinity bottles rattling, "Erebus And Terror" is the sound of the ship ice breaking as recorded from inside of the bow.

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Reviews

"Mank is an one-man outfit by Ben Powell who has been issuing a string of albums over the years. Curiously, as an experienced producer of having been active since the back end of the 90s he has recorded some of his albums whilst biding time after a work day on the boards of specific ships (the icebreakers, expedition ships). Furthermore, there could be assumed Powell is fascinated of borealic terrains and arctic beauty. In any cases, his recent 11-track issue is an arresting amalgamation of mesmeric, glacial-alike glimpses and snowy flickers, towering hypnagogic synth whiffs, and trance-y bubbling being interlaced or being a part of slightly evolving, simmering propulsions. Indeed, the listener can imagine her/himself to be sitting in the midst of a cold landscape or at the top of an iceberg wrapped up in a very warm blanket. Despite the rhythms the progressions conjure up the kind of still life. On the whole, the issue is both emotively and formally executed wherein abstract, cerebral appearances are mixed up with moody motes and seeds, however, thereby drawing in the listener without reservation." - Recent Musical Heros

"Ben Powell spends a fair amount of his time on research vessels at the North Pole, a location which doesn’t necessary lend itself to lounging by the pool during downtime. Rather than spending his time re-reading the latest Dan Brown or catching up with TOWIE, Powell makes music as Mank, presumably shut away in his cabin staring at his laptop which might lead to any number of comments from his shipmates. But when the results of his work are as powerful as Gutta-percha, that’s all the response Powell would need. There’s an icy quality that might be expected given the locale, but even the ambient pieces retain their humanity. In addition, on several tracks inventive percussion – walking the fine line between clatter and restraint – forms the basis for delicate but propulsive melodies that fizz around like fireflies occasionally leading to a swishing of sparks. “Systaltic” opens with a calming drift before gradually building up around a heartbeat to create a rather lovely piece; “Moloch” is centred around an analogue synth-sounding bass line and is furnished with blips and bleeps. As well as having the ice to gaze over, Powell probably hears a lot of sounds emanating from the equipment being used from the clang of metal on metal to the ship’s radar, so perhaps at a subliminal level, what he hears daily finds its way into his music. As a result, this is a convincing glimpse into a previously unimagined world – please, Mr Powell, don’t give up the day job." - A Closer Listen

"First thing that hit me about this 14th Mank album is the beautiful sub-bass sound that has sometimes lacked from previous outings. ‘Cyanosis’ starts proceedings and is pretty upbeat by Mank standards, almost a dance track, but we’re back to more familiar territory with ‘Heliopolis’, which takes you to a Canadian icebreaker on the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska which, by coincidence is where it was written, as Ben Mank explains, “For my day job I work on ships making oceanographic measurements and as such, I spend a lot of time bobbing around at sea near the North Pole. Making music lets me an escape to my own world away from the ship but I hope that the beauty of my location comes through in my music, there are a lot of field recordings embedded in the mix.” Track 3 is ‘Precessio’n and wonderfully plunders The Orb for 6.05 minutes and will be a welcome friend on the A55 as I shuffle my iPod and shuffle my car from one queue to another, wishing I was on an ice-breaker. ‘Rheya’ comes and goes peacefully and transcends into ‘Moloch’, and I had better explain that you file Mank under ambient, you play Mank and pass the bong around, you yearn to hear Mank while you’re chilling in good company at the Greek Taverna in Upper Bangor, you make love to Mank (not to him personally, although…), you sleep to Mank, you wan… that’s enough now… That throbbing sub-bass is back on ‘Proteu’s, shuddering the house, the neighbours break from their constant arguing, fearing an earthquake. Ben has been releasing material ever since the Mank debut ‘Ecaz Nous’ in 2001, usually one album a year, and although he did moonlight into a band, the sublime Micrographia in the mid-2000's, he has otherwise stayed true to his cause; no reinventions, nothing to prove but plenty to deliver. Mid-album is more chilled, even by these chilly standards, until ‘Systalic’ leads you into a false sense of lull and safety with its Floydian Dark Side heartbeat that skates in an out almost like an ambient On The Run. In a perverse kind of way the next track ‘Eglwyseg’ sounds like it could be a continuation of On The Run; the bit after the bloke says “Live for today”, but without ever really threatening to do so. Haunting (like transcend) is a word that you have to use when describing a Mank album, so I save the adjective for the penultimate track ‘Dysthymia’, with its haunting childlike tinkling, as if you’re in a large house and you can hear what you can only fear to be an insane child playing a psycho-piano in a room that you cannot find. The drama never unfolds, it simply stops and the faint thunder rumble of ‘Erebus And Terror’ signals the finale, it creeps, it edges, ever so slowly toward you, up the deserted fog filled beach. This could be genuine thunder, recorded on that scientific boat… I certainly hope so." - Louder Than War