Sister Mantos - Tough Love or The Fands of Hate

Owain Paciuszko 28/08/2010

Rating: 4/5

Opening with a pulsating bassy synth line that reverberates slinkily over processed drum lines and dry vocals intoning the track's title, 'I just want to live my life Like i want 2'. It's a perfectly ambient ease with dance leanings into this debut record from El Savador born musician and artist Oscar Miguel Santos and friends. It's space-age chill-out leanings recalling Brian Eno, but he's equally capable of bringing an avant-garde production spritz to, what initially seems like, the more straight-forward dancefloor flavoured Disaster Beat WE ARE ONE. As it gradually drowns in reversed synths and tribal sounding vocal keening you know you're in the cheeky mittens of a smart musician, not afraid to pull the rug out from under you and push his experimental dance music into some strange, atonal places. Thus once that beat kicks back in its all the more thrilling, like any masterful performance its all about taking the participant on an emotional journey, it's almost impossible not to dance.

AUG08 begins with an erratic stammering drum-beat with echoey glimpses of softly spoken murmurings, it's somewhere between Radiohead's more jazzy moments and The Dust Brothers' soundtrack to Fight Club. Meanwhile ASTAROTH begins like the loading screen for a C64 Blade Runner video game before gathering momentum with delicious synthetic hi-hats, a simple but catchy bass-line and little squeaking robotic rodent noises. It doesn't turn into a mind-blowing dance floor psychedelic explosion, instead turning on the restraint and ending side A on a mysterious, contemplative fizzle of synths and wiry vocals.

Side B begins with what sounds like an electronic digeridoo, Kaos becomes a stripped bare dance number with reverberating hand-claps and stabs of stodgy bass, Mantos whispering in the background. It bares some resemblance to the approachably avant garde moments of Jape's work, always moving towards the club friendly beats, but garnishing these asides with generous helpings of weird that, though brilliant, may make DJs wary of subjecting impatient revellers to a few minutes of ambient noodling. Here, as the track drifts seamlessly into No God, when collaborator Strawberry joins the fray singing 'We believe in the slowdance', the track gets as close as the record has so far to being a pop album. Feeling like a remix of a Lou Reed and Nico duet it's a sweet confection, more lyrically driven than anything so far on the album. The only disappointment here being the use of a fade-out to end the song.

Stopped Trying is desolate waves of rising synths as Mantos despondently grumbles that 'This is the last time.' It's a strangely placed 'comedown' track, sandwich between the fantastic pop wonderment of No God and the Beck meets Har Mar Superstar funk of WORLDWIDE, starting with the delightful introduction; 'This one goes out to all the Unicorns, all the fairies...' It's ascending organ lines, gospel vocals from Strawberry and Larissa James and arch-stylings make this a distant cousin of Prince at his most swaggeringly pompous, and it seems designed for arrogant posturing at its most sublime. But Mantos manages to push things forward, introducing a chugging bass-line and scatty percussion over a ghostly whistle. It skiffles towards a close, leaving final track Messian's Dream to provide a chirruping collage of mysterious squeaks and calls.

This is a brilliant record that could soundtrack an erratically tempo-ed party (Dance tune! Depression! Jazz wig-out! Dance tune!) or a pre-night out bedroom groove, it's sumptuously produced and arranged by multi-talented Mantos who proclaims in the liner notes; 'This album should be listened to while making art, making love or making little puffs of skunky smoke.' One of the best 'party' records of the year.