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The Muffins - Manna/Mirage CD (album) cover


The Muffins


Canterbury Scene

4.09 | 86 ratings

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Post/Math Rock Team
4 stars The Muffins are an American Canterbury group from Washington, DC. This is their first album although they had been around already for a few years. The sound is heavily influenced by both Soft Machine and Frank Zappa, and even a little bit of Henry Cow as well. This is guitarless instrumental Canterbury with lots of wind instruments. Due to the low budget recording, this album sometimes sounds more like a jazz record from the 1960s rather than a rock record from the late 1970s. Although both the sound and songs appear kind of dated for something released in 1978, it also adds a charm to the album. Sometimes less is more.

Manna/Mirage features just four tracks with one of them being a side-long epic, one of the better Canterbury epics in fact. "Monkey With The Golden Eyes" starts out like Karl Jenkins-era Soft Machine with electric piano and some flute. Some oboe(?) joins in playing lovely melodies. Later some marimba(?). Slowly some trippy organ enters the scene. The rest of the song is both dissonant and melodic. "Hobart Got Burned" continues with the drone that ends "Monkey..." Then it goes into something similar to Henry Cow in improvisation mode. After a few minutes of that the music becomes more similar to Soft Machine with the electric piano figure and awesome fuzz-bass.

After the first two shorter songs comes the two epics of the album. "Amelia Earhart" is an almost 16 minute long tour de force of Canterbury music. It starts out with some kind of tuned percussion at low volume (think of the beginning to LTIA Pt. 1). Some random drums and other sounds can be heard before the music stops and then returns as great Canterbury jamming featuring great soloing on sax. Changes to another section featuring phased electric piano and start/stop playing. Then a great wah-bass solo. Later on some flute soloing. Afterwards some great fuzz-bass from a fuzz box that was malfunctioning I believe.

The sounds of people making noises at one point. I love the phased electric piano after 8 minutes. Goes through a few different sections; some very jazzy, some parts are reprised from earlier. After 11 minutes it gets spacey and minimalistic with a repeated bass note. Some flute later. This part continues until the end. The almost 23 minute "Adventures Of Captain Boomerang" opens in an orchestral Canterbury mood. When the drums come in it goes into Canterbury style jazz-rock. After 2 minutes you hear random sounds along with start/stop playing. At one point you hear people shouting "Captain Boomerang!" After 7 minutes is some great wah-bass.

As to be expected, this epic changes a lot. It gets almost bluesy in a Zappaesque way around 8 1/2 minutes. Around 11 minutes is some awesome phased bass which plays a melody. There seems to be an edit right after that part where a modified organ sounds like a synth. Later on some wind sounds and flute in the distance. More wind sounds and a great altered wind instrument later on. More synth like soloing and great rhythm section towards the end. This is some terrific Canterbury, although the next album (which I haven't heard) is supposed to be more avant-prog. Manna/Mirage is a unique sounding album that fans of Canterbury should hear. 4 stars.

zravkapt | 4/5 |


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