Review: Maninkari – Fahon (ferme-l’oeil, Feb 22)

Every time Maninkari releases a new album, it’s as if we’re simply receiving a new audio transmission from whatever dark, fantastical realm the French duo inhabits, the hard-won results of countless battles fought against shadowy creatures and impossible perils. Le diable avec ses chevaux, their ambitious double-CD debut, was the catalyst that magicked this vivid world into existence, and it’s still the most sweeping and detailed exploration of it, but since then members Frédéric and Olivier Charlot have approached their ritualistic broadcasts using novel perspectives and limitations that shed new light on the murk. Fahon is as hypnotically nocturnal and psychedelic as any Maninkari release, but much of it is specifically owed to the deliberate minimalism of the instrumental palette, which consists only of viola and various frame drums. While the latter is commonly associated with impressive technical skill, there’s a strange and reductive yet nonetheless pervasive belief that “anyone can play a drum.” Here, however, Olivier Charlot’s virtuosic technique demonstrates that there’s a clear difference between “playing” and “playing well”; it is often Frédéric’s reverb-soaked chord drones and haunting legato that are closer to a traditional backing or rhythmic role than the ceaselessly developing pulses and pounds. On Fahon, deceptive simplicity belies deceptive complexity.

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