Manu Zain's harmonious downtempo productions have graced our label for the better part of this decade. Often pairing wistful, bell-tinged riffs with layered, synthesized elements, Zain achieves a level of production that few can rival. His new five-track EP, "Ukiyo," is another profound undertaking, imbued with breathtaking soundscapes.
The melancholic title cut, "Ukiyo" (which translates as "The Floating World"), engages the listener with a mixed series of evolving textures and layers. High-octave chimes coalesce with atmospheric pads and strings in Manu's classic fashion. The arrangement continues to crescendo and, ultimately, reaches a poignant climax; our 'Floating Word' is thereby transfigured vis-à-vis Manu's stunning composition.
The cinematic "My Angel" is a stirring tribute to Manu's late mother. Angelic atmospheres wax and wane as the progressions play out, creating an emotive journey that enthralls the listener upon every note. The climax is created when these harmonies join into one triumphant swell, as if to signal the transcendent moment of leaving one's earthly concerns behind.
The wondrous "Never" centers on a repeating progression of piano chords and arpeggiated sequences; the listener easily gets lost in the gentle cadences that these melody lines create. Manu Zain's signature atmospheric textures breathe new life into every phrase of the composition.
In the more percussively driven "Dust," a pulsing, yet minimal bass line leaves plenty of headroom for several drifting melody lines to emerge, while suspenseful string effects add anticipatory tension to the soundscape. As the various instrumental themes come to a gentle conclusion in the song's closing minutes, we are reminded of the fragility of life.
Manu Zain rounds out his EP with the introspective "South," in which the melodic motifs echo their way into one cohesive, spiritually nourishing ambience. Textured drum patterns continue to build and develop throughout the composition, keeping the emotional energy propelling forward, in spite of the softer choices in instrumental timbres.