Rocks Off has been an apostle of The Manichean ever since we grabbed singer Cory Sinclair by the shoulders and demanded he explain to us what the hell a Manichean was. Since then, we have dutifully reviewed every single release he and partner Justice Tirapelli-Jamail have thrown at us, and every single one of them has been an exploration of deep mystery and pure pleasure.
Their music, our locals who have been avoiding them for some odd reason, melds the atmospheric esoteriscims of Tear Garden of the Legendary Pink Dots with the pop poetry of Radiohead. The result is a journey as much as a listening experience, and requires a good deal of contemplation to enjoy to the fullest.
The new album, Sakura, is available for free at the Manichean's BandCamp site, as are all their releases. The short opus serves as a prologue to the band's ultimate creation, the multiple-album epic "Whispers Saga."
"It was initially going to be a two to three song 'single' but as with most things Justice and I work on it expanded somewhat dramatically," said Sinclair.
The most solid thread that continues to sew together the ever-increasing saga is the idea of rising. The saga features a character named Lacerus, an obvious reference to Lazarus who Jesus raised from the dead. The Whispers EP ended with a lyric about the suicide of a phoenix, which also always rises from the dead.
Even the legendary human albatross Icarus makes an appearance in Sakura, though it's clear from the lyrics that Sinclair and Tirapelli-Jamail are interested only in the fact that he flew, not that he fell.
"The concept of rising and 'surpassing' given situations is very prevalent in our music right now, both lyrically and with the actual music that Justice writes," Sinclair says. "I think both Justice and I have certain things in our personal lives that we've been trying to move beyond since we started working on The Manichean more than four years ago, at which time Justice was a teenager and I was in my early twenties.
"It shines through in the music and poetry because we're constantly attempting to better ourselves, which I translate into the story. I wouldn't say there's anything we're trying to escape but rather face head-on; to stare that shadow in the face until it either engulfs you or assumes its proper place - behind and beneath you.
"Experiences are not to be forgotten or escaped but rather manipulated to serve as a prompt, a lesson, a new beginning."
Typical of the music we get from The Manichean, nothing can be counted on to be even remotely normal. Tirapelli-Jamail has branched into the use of much more unconventional sound generating apparatuses than use don previous releases.
He pluck a guqin on Sakura - a bit odd using a Chinese stringed instrument instead of a koto on a song titled after the Japanese word for "cherry." He's also utilized toy pianos on various tracks and has embraced the Korg synthesizer as well. We're sure that Korg will be sending him the uniform of bondage pants, button down black shirt, and stompy boots shortly.
As the "Whispers Saga" continues to unfold, it has become clear that the Manichean is adding and adapting as they go along. You have to expect that when you name your band after a religion who's main claim to infamy was taking other people's gods and saying "mine."
"Is the 'Whispers Saga' concretely mapped out? Well, yes and no," says Sinclair. "Obviously Sakura has become a kind of footnote to the saga and very much a part of it, but that was a surprise to even us. It's a collection of gospels."
Three further releases in the main storyline, each corresponding with a classical element, are expected
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For now, we can enjoy the... prologue? Spin-off? There's no real need to but Sakura in a box. It continues the unbroken streak the Manichean has in putting out thoughtful and engaging short albums that perfectly meld the edge and the solid ground of pop. Each song is a wonderful wander through light and dark, and we're already waiting for the next installment.
The Manichean plays with Dengue Fever, Spain Colored Orange, Electric Attitude, The Band Foster, Tax the Wolf, Brandon West and The Black Hats, and Cari Qouyeser Band Saturday, May 7, at Fitzgerald's.