[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
From out of the desert comes Panamint Manse. Like the wandering traders and prospectors of the Old West, he prefers the solitude and sanctuary of harsh conditions. The blistering sun, the billowing sand, the rambling tumbleweeds and the slow passage of time… don’t expect any of this to come through in his work. ‘Call of the Cactus Wren’ is a fully instrumental, fully synthetic creation. Only the cover art draws from its surroundings, the rest is a most splendid study of brightly colored electronics. No, this is not some kind of attempt at channeling the past we’re hearing; if I wanted retro I’d have chosen to listen to any of the numerous “projects” out there who combine their favorite 80s video games (which they’ve played only at home) with cynically exploited fonts to the “music” they make.
Here you will find no such bullshit.
Panamint Manse take an even-keel approach to what they’re offering; at it’s core this record is designed to make you feel numb. The textures and sound choices may light up your head for a bit but there’s no ephemeral pining for people and places lost going on here. ‘Call of the Cactus Wren’ is a therapeutic creation, one which only hints at what brought it to life. You could be bobbing your head along giddily the entire time this plays and never begin to calculate the point of origin; I myself was having such an episode until I noticed some of the song titles. It’s a cunning move on his part to engage in such wily subterfuge and I applaud the attention to detail; maybe others who listen will not make the same connection, perhaps they will.
The Wren has called, nothing can change that now. This fellow doesn’t dawdle when composing nor does he waste much time on exposition: the tracks begin and then end with a sudden urgency to them as though he couldn’t linger any longer and had to be moving on. These are only his initial efforts and with time I have no doubt he will develop his sound beyond the confines imposed upon him by having to ‘tag’ his material in order to draw people’s interest. He seems happiest attaching one melody to another before pulling my attention away from all that glitters via disquieting atmospheric trickery.
You can either engage with what he’s done with an open mind or you can play another round of spot the influence instead of actually listening. The choice seemed quite obvious to me as I’ve grown weary of the guileless cunning proffered by idiots who brazenly admit to emulating another’s style as though this will inoculate them from being dismissed as a hack. Panamint Manse operate from a backdrop of abject isolation and impenetrable silence, his pieces have an innocence to them you’ll very much enjoy and if you’re wondering how that transitions into the overall feel I’ll just say this: flawlessly.
Panamint Manse – Call of the Cactus Wren