Indonesian guitarist Tesla Manaf is one of MoonJuner Leonardo Pavkvoic's most distincive musician recruitments. I'm embarassed to say I was not at all familiar with this brilliant player and composer until Leo sent his latest disc to FAME. What I heard the moment the first cut opened, A Man's Relationship with his Fragile Area, was immediately arresting and simultaneously refreshing. In fact, 'refreshing' is the most apt term for all Manaf's work, and every cut on this CD (comprised of tracks from two earlier LPs) is mindful of the playful sophistications of Hermeto Pascoal and similar idiosyncratic spirits well mixed with Stravinsky, Zappa, Bley (both of 'em), Canterbury, echoes of zeuhl, gamalon, later John McLaughlin, and God only knows what else.
What's most striking, however, is the incredible airiness of each song despite everything being well larded with virtuosity and interlocking lines (also very spaced-out ones) more than once merrily demented…and what in hell is that horn in Moving Side??? Is it that terompet pencak thingamajig (played by the mysteriously cognomened Hulhul)? It sounds like a drunken ney played by a soused goose calling its mate for some, as Sasha Baron Cohen would put it, 'sexy time', a delightfully skewed interpolation within the song. In all soundfields here, the clarity factor reaches a Gabor Szabo / Steve Khan level and must be mentioned, has to be appreciated, should be wallowed in, naked and hooting, smiling from ear to ear. Umphrey's Magee and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum likewise seem quite appropriate to compare Manaf to as well, in exhilarating uniqueness, unshorn daring, and a bafflingly twisted but utterly compelling mindset.
I've made no bones about my enamorment with the unbelievable Zoho label in these pages, and Tesla Manaf is 100% fully as unique as that imprint's killer roster, thus a gent whose thinking alone is post-futurist while reaching deeply back into the traditions of the sonic arts from his homeland and surrounding areas. He enlisted a roster of many superb musicians to abet his abstract genius, and each of the cats plays like an extension of Manaf. One must be a virtuoso to hope to keep up in this highly transposing work, and not a note is muffed, not a single inflection, no least nuance. This CD is going to knock the ears off aficionados of prog, fusion, World, neoclassical, free jazz, and all musics outside the envelope. Miss it at peril to your present and future bliss. MOST DEFINITELY one of the best releases of the year, even this early in the twelve-month. In fact, one of the best CDs of the decade, forwards and backwards, and I'm going to have to see about scarfing up everything Manaf's ever done.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2015, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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