Nights at the hallucinogenic circus: debut EP from Ruaidhri Mannion

Drop the needle on the debut EP from London-based composer, Ruaidhri Mannion, and sound lurches slightly wild-eyed out of your speakers; hold on tight, and you are off for a dizzying ride through a shifting, kaleidoscopic electronica-drenched soundscape that is by turn hypnotic, menacing, and very appealing. Its opening track musique criquette evokes the subtle nightmare of the circus as it looms and recedes, a merry-go-round with a musical accompaniment that threatens, but never quite manages, to go out of control.


An ostinato formed from part of the harmonic series gently rocks in the background of bflw, punctuated with prickly pizzicato and scraped strings, persistent clarinet and bell-tones. Then a swaggering beat kicks in, strutting through the sonic landscape, through which snatches of melody shift and whirl. What I like about this music is that there’s no hierarchy to these sounds; the whole soundscape exists in a state of equilibrium, asking for your attention, and you have to work out for yourself what to listen to at any given moment. It’s a music that demands – and rewards – active listening. There’s something of the influence of Radiohead, perhaps, particularly in the bells that finish the piece, reminiscent of Kid A.


Then a voice bursts out of a wild, grungy sea of distorted sound for the 53 seconds of disarm a rhino, before a sudden hiatus in the widely-spaced opening of the second tear says: . Gentle chords hang in the air, plucked guitar tones shift in the breeze, before the sudden (and quite unexpected) appearance of two consonant chords in a repeated pattern, like something from Bill Frisell. The piece picks its way forward hesitantly, as though it is unsure itself as to how it’s going to unfold, surrounded by a backdrop of echoing, reversed samples and portamenti – it’s oddly warm and comforting, like some vast American prairie at summer.


Id says concludes the album in a sunnier, Massive Attack-esque manner. Overall, it’s a beguiling album, where dreams jostle and collide, one moment hypnotic, the next unsettling, manic, and slightly menacing. i am rhino and ruin is available on bandcamp here.

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