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Michael Mayer – Mantasy

Album review

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Kompakt have put out some fantastic records over the last few years, so it’s all the more impressive that this release from co-owner Michael Mayer is among the best. It’s also fitting that it perfectly sums up what the label’s best at, namely a mixture of minimal beats and ambient bliss with the ability to engage both your head and your feet. It may only be his second album proper, but you can tell straight away that you’re in the hands of a pro.

The album kicks off with a track that would stand out on any of Kompakt’s fabled “Pop Ambient” compilations, the unfeasibly lush ‘Sully’. A carefully crafted combination of breathy, hissing synths and delicate chimes, it’s the sort of music you’d imagine would play in your head if you unexpectedly woke up in a snow drift (if the snow consisted entirely of pure MDMA). It’s music to sit on mountains to, and, contradicting its title, feels completely unsullied.

“Lamusetwa” brings in our first beat, helped along with regular injections of pulse-maintaining bleeps and squiggly synths, sounding like a strident march to the top of the peak “Sully” sits upon. The title track (and what a title!) is similarly driving, building upon a vintage-sounding bassline with drawn-out, high-pitched tones and blunt 8-bit plunks. It makes you want to hunt androids with lasers while wearing figure-hugging synthetic bodysuits, which can only be a good thing. Mayer apparently became obsessed with film soundtracks while making this album, and there is more than a touch of Vangelis and John Carpenter here and elsewhere.

While ‘Baumhaus’, with its reverb-ridden sax, gentle harp, glockenspiel and birdsong combo, verges into being a little too twee, ‘Voigt Kampff Test’ soon picks the pace back up by pitching itself somewhere between an urgent news bulletin and the soundtrack from an action-adventure arcade game. ‘Neue Furche’, meanwhile, provides the roughest rhythms on the records – it’s an inigorating slice of minimal techno that’s no less fun for the fact it sounds quite dated.

In fact, most of record is exactly that: fun. Which is quite a feat in a genre which is sometimes accused of lacking that element. Even better, the bits that aren’t overtly fun are generally overtly gorgeous instead. Jeppe Kjellberg of WhoMadeWho’s appearance on the somewhat uninspired ‘Good Times’ aside, “Mantasy” really is the stuff dreams are made of.

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