No Mana Shows He’s Got Plenty Left ‘Above the Blue’ EP

I listen to a lot of music, some of it EDM some of it hip-hop, some indie rock and some of just about everything else. To be honest, a lot of its faceless rubbish and with good reason: it’s difficult to put one’s stamp on something, a singular, recognizable character trait; especially if you don’t sing.

An artist who accomplishes this with seemingly little effort is No Mana. Even the name carries significance, the feeling of being in a choked-out 8-bit world where you have no more juice, no mana, that’s what it can be like living in a big city.

It’s hard to pin down his aesthetic, moving from gritty electro-glitch to lush dancepop. Kind of like a rawer, more introspective Deadmau5 or early Porter Robinson evidently both influences but this far from copycat material. Lots of those big polysynth chords and twinkling arpeggios, No Mana walks the thin line between electro and trance thats not quite definable as one of the other.

The EP starts with the driving pulse of MOON, its myriad of little vocal chops dancing alongside pitched out underwater vocals. Its tense and engaging, with a hypnotic little riff keeping time amid the swirling siren synths and charging pulse. ‘Static’ moves quickly into a simulacrum of a dancehall beat and a lead line reminiscent of Pendulum. No Mana is a master of keeping the listener on their toes via subtle changes in texture and pitch. There is none of that “Oh ok, here comes the drop…” blasé about his music; the whole thing is so subtly interwoven and yet oddly chaotic that its a perpetual joy to listen to: all the little plucks and swishes in the top end of these tracks are truly a pleasure to behold on a good system.

As the EP moves on the tempo drops and becomes dreamier and stranger. It’s apparent that he has front loaded the EP with his uptempo stock in trade and kept the experimental material for the back half. No Mana is at his peak when working with intricate sound and textures, so the simple dance pop of ‘Constellation’ is a little underwhelming. ‘Clear’ is a little out of left field: a slice of feedback soaked noise in the ballpark of dubstep. Obviously he is more comfortable working with house based tempos and feel but its certainly fascinating seeing him work out of his wheelhouse. Certainly none of them fail as songs; they just don’t quite possess the polish of his other work.

Ultimately, the EP should come as a breath of fresh air to anyone looking for some uptempo house thats a little left of center and some interesting sonic detours.

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