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MANNA / MIRAGE

Canterbury Scene • United States


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Manna / Mirage biography
David Newhouse - Born 1953 (Hawaii, USA)

Named after THE MUFFINS ' 1978 debut album (one of the essential Canterbury-related releases, MANNA/MIRAGE is the newest project by founding member Dave Newhouse (one of the band's two woodwind players). Not surprisingly, fellow Muffins Billy Swann and Paul Sears are also on board, as well as Newhouse's son George, guitarist Mark Stanley (of CHAINSAW JAZZ and THEE MAXIMALISTS), and newest recruit, Steve Pastena, on French horn. The ensemble's debut, released in the autumn of 2015, bears the title of Blue Dogs - a title inspired by a painting by artist and RIO/Canterbury fan Gonzalo Fuentes Riquelme (aka Guerrilla Graphics), which graces the CD cover. The album was mixed and produced by Mike Potter of Baltimore's Orion Studios, probably the most important venue for progressive music in the US.

Raff (Raffaella Berry)

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MANNA / MIRAGE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.97 | 11 ratings
Blue Dogs
2015
4.06 | 13 ratings
Rest Of The World
2018
3.86 | 10 ratings
Face
2020

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MANNA / MIRAGE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Face by MANNA / MIRAGE album cover Studio Album, 2020
3.86 | 10 ratings

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Face
Manna / Mirage Canterbury Scene

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

4 stars Any review of Manna/Mirage is going to look back to The Muffins, the Canterbury influenced quartet founded by Dave Newhouse (keyboards, reeds), Billy Swan (bass) and Michael Zentner (guitar, violin) all the way back in 1973. Named after The Muffins' debut album, Manna/Mirage released their debut in 2015 with Dave being joined by Billy and Paul Sears from the line-up which released 2012's 'Mother Tongue'. However, for the 2018 'Rest of the World' it was now just Dave with additional musicians, many of whom have continued through to this their third album.

Dave provides keyboards, woodwinds, and saxophones on this release, and apart from the final song everything on the album is instrumental. Dave is renowned for providing Canterbury-influenced progressive rock for well over 40 years and he is showing no sign at all of changing now. He can also be found working in The Moon Men with Jerry King, who is one of the returning musicians, providing bass and other instruments. Musically this sounds like a mix of Henry Cow, Caravan, Soft Machine, Zappa and even Can, heading deep into the avant-garde to create something where there may be repeated melody, or there may not. It may contain delicate keyboards, or it may not. The woodwind may be taking the lead, or guess what? It may not. The result is a musical journey where one is never quite sure where the end is going to be, but it is always way more interesting to follow a road less travelled than the highway everyone else uses. It may take longer, but in the end, it is always more fulfilling, and life is all about the journey. This is an album which should only be played when the listener really has the time to fully immerse themselves, to focus intently on the music, preferably by playing it on headphones.

It is hard to pick a favourite, as each song is as intriguing as the next, but I am glad that "Fly Away" is at the end of the album as it is so very different indeed to what has gone before, with swirling piano and delicate vocals. In many ways it is out of place with what has gone before, which also makes it a perfect ending, as it is this lack of conformity throughout the album which makes it such a delight. This conforms most strongly with numbers which could be viewed as commercial, and therefore is a massive contrast to everything else, so therefore fits the overall rationale of the album, if that makes sense. This is something which all lovers of Canterbury-style Prog need to discover at once, if not sooner.

 Rest Of The World by MANNA / MIRAGE album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.06 | 13 ratings

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Rest Of The World
Manna / Mirage Canterbury Scene

Review by Sagichim
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars I was wondering if this Muffins offshoot band gonna have a follow up to their excellent debut. If Blue Dogs showed Dave Newhouse taking a big role in the album/band it is more evident here, a quick look at the album's credit will point out that this looks like more of a solo album from him. Billy Swann (Ex The Muffins) appears only on one track, Paul Sears (Ex The Muffins) which played drums on the debut is not on board this time instead we have about ten more musicians participating in the album including Bret Hart (not the wrestler...) Jerry King and William Jungwirth on which he collaborates with them on the excellent band Moon Man. I'm glad to see Newhouse does not follow the debut footsteps but continues to explore his ideas further more. While the debut was leaning more towards jazz this one is more progressive overall with an emphasis on Canterbury and avant garde, like a cross between Henry Cow's LegEnd, Caravan and Soft Machine. Dave Newhouse certainly knows how to make an album to sound so beautiful, his array of woodwinds like clarinet, tenor/alto/baritone and soprano sax, keys and piano complimented with bass and drums sounds so fresh and lively which is the canterbury music's trademark.

Catawampus, Zed He Said and That Awful Sky are three tracks designated for a Muffins album before the band dissolved. The album opens with Catawampus their progiest tune in the album, this is quite an eclectic ride as the song holds a few surprises and bears an interesting progression. Sean Rickman on drums really shines here, he's all over the place with an unexpected rock attitude giving those jazzy horns a real kick, as the contrast between jazzy horns and an angry fuzzy organ is built. Mark Stanley is doing a great job here with a cool quirky electric guitar solo and his acoustic noodling on the song's final part topped with beautiful keyboard chords, a canterbury heaven! Zed He Said is an acoustic piece said to be dedicated to Robert Wyatt. There's a quiet disturbing psychedelic touch here like an early melody by Caravan, soft keyboard sounds and acoustic guitar strumming lead the way with female vocals, it gets more upbeat later with drums. Alchemist In The Parlor is quite a weird piece, Carla Diratz from the band Diratz (which is another project of Dave Newhouse) writes the lyrics and performs heavy accented narration on this weird folk tune with minimalistic woodwinds rhythm, a violin, bells and percussion, it actually suits the vibe of the album in spite of feeling out of place at first. Except for those two tracks containing vocals the rest is instrumental. 30 Degrees Of Freedom is my favorite piece here along with the opener and Mini Hugh, piano and noisy distortions gets the ball rolling, it settles for Newhouse to have some fun with woodwinds, piano, keys guitars and a deep fat bass, this is good and it gets even better when it picks up and gets more intense with Sean Rickman's busy drumming and Stanley's guitar solo. Gonzalo's Paints is dedicated to Gonzalo Fuentes the man behind their album covers (yep haha) It's a short pastoral theme with serene atmosphere. Miracle Walking adds to the album's diversity, no drumming no bass only multiple layers of woodwinds and an accordion, very nice. Mini Hugh is dedicated to Hugh Hopper and for a good reason, it sounds like something out of Soft Machine's kitchen. The calm atmosphere wraps you up as you enter that pool but becomes much more beautiful once you dive in, Guy Seger's bass, Newhouse woodwinds and Rickman stunning drumming doesn't let you wanna leave the water, fantastic really! That Awful Sky is a unique spacious piece with a disturbing atmosphere played only with electric and acoustic basses, guitar and soft drum patterns, a beautiful ending to the album.

As much as I love the first album I think this is a little bit better, I guess it's something to do with the album being more canterbury oriented plus Rickman's drumming which kinda steals the show here. I sure do hope Mr. Newhouse comes up with another album soon because as of now it doesn't look like his out of ideas. His brilliant songwriting, arrangements and playing makes this beautiful sounding album a real winner. Easy 4 stars.

 Blue Dogs by MANNA / MIRAGE album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.97 | 11 ratings

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Blue Dogs
Manna / Mirage Canterbury Scene

Review by Sagichim
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars If you can't get enough of The Muffins this is a great offshoot band. Named after their debut album, Manna/Mirage consists of 3 members from The Muffins, Dave Newhouse plays keyboards, woodwinds and drums in about half the tracks here, his son George plays the other half. Billy Swann on bass and Paul Sears appears only on one track Muffin Man Redux playing the drums, the only one missing is Tom Scott. This is very close to what The Muffins were doing in their early period and of course Soft Machine also come to mind. Their fantastic blend of Canterbury, jazz and some avant guarde shines throughout this very short album, only 35 minutes of music. Although the songs are relatively short about 4-5 minutes they sound complete and don't wander off. The playing is of course superb, Dave Newhouse is the main man here, with his masterful arrangements of multiple woodwinds, piano and keys being complemented with bass and drums.

The album opens with the aptly titled Canterbury Bells, this is all Newhouse, keys and horns lead the way on this buoyant journey on top of jazzy piano chords progressions, what a beautiful sound. Duke Street is some sort of a tribute to Duke Ellington so this one goes into jazzier territories, sonds like something out of the 50's with a better production, Newhouse really nails this one with a couple layers of woodwinds. Muffin Man Redux is one of the most diverse tunes in this album, it continues the jazzy mood and welcomes Mark Stanley with his Bireli Lagrene like jazzy guitar runs, Newhouse's piano work goes hand in hand with his multiple layers of horns which sets the ground for some Ratledge fuzzed out keyboard solo. The melancholic Lost In Photograph again derives from its title is a slow contemplative piece, with woodwinds takes the center. Blind Eye probably my favorite tune here adds a few more spices to the mix and goes into Zehul realms, it sounds like something out of the first Magma album as woodwinds sets the ground to a deep pulsating bass, sinister guitar licks and a blaring anguished sax, great stuff and a bit too short maybe. Shwang Time swings like another 50's big band tune where woodwinds again takes center stage, very cool. Rovian Cue is another melancholic tune full of emotion and melodic flair, a beautiful finish to this album.

A very promising debut indeed and a great addition to any Canterbury/Jazz fan. Although a very short release but it's more than rewarding, I sure hope more people will tune in to this great work. Rounded up a bit to 4 stars.

 Rest Of The World by MANNA / MIRAGE album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.06 | 13 ratings

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Rest Of The World
Manna / Mirage Canterbury Scene

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Dave Newhouse and friends are moving a bit further away from the poppiness of their previous Canterbury association and more into experimental and avant jazz. This is most overtly on display in the attention-grabbing drumming coming from Sean RIckman.

1. "Catawampus" (7:32) multiple winds herald the opening of this song (and album) before moving bass and tight drums kick in to support the song's establishment. At 1:10 a baritone sax synth buzzsaw interjects its two notes into the equation (as the chorus?). Jarring but interesting. After the second "chorus" the song downshifts into a looser, more laid back pace within which electric guitarist Mark Stanley has a chance to show their chops. Then Dave shows off a more subdued organ solo before acoustic guitar and keys finish it off over decaying drum play. Interesting with new sounds and combinations but, overall, nothing too exciting or revolutionary. (8/10)

2. "Zed He Said" (4:22) Jerry King's simple, arpeggiated acoustic guitar chord sets the scene for Michele King's multi- tracked singing. Very nice melodies, friendly, inviting pace and structure, the instrumental mid-section is quite engaging and pleasant with some great melodies from the winds over the Vince Guraldi-like music. (8.5/10)

3. "Alchemist In The Parlor" (3:56) odd Beat-like song structure (to match the 1964 era of singer Carla Diratz's story?) turns mini-big band as the horns and keys bank together for the "chorus" sections between and after Carla's recitations. Fun music and song--kind of Jim Jarmusch-ish. Interesting story. (8.5/10)

4. "30 Degrees Of Freedom" (7:18) long introduction of keyboard rumbling and rolling as cymbols play turns into a smoother, more laid back and melodic piece at the two-minute mark. From that point on it is a very melody- oriented, two-chord groovin' song with drums and multiple horns and organ playing at complex harmonic chord play. Wailing electric guitar floats behind, panning around for a minute, before settling into a note-bending solo display in the sixth minute. Sounds really cool when the full ensemble of horns, bass tones, and keys are playing in full clutter behind. Sean Rickman is a madman! He must claim Keith Moon and The Muppets' Animal as influences! (9.25/10)

5. "Gonzalo's Paints" (2:42) very laid back, melodic, even bucolic full-band start eventually wends its way into very rich, cool, multi-track harmonies with a few instruments breaking off to solo here and there. Just a very cool, very rich tapestry, start to finish. (10/10)

6. "Miracle Walking" (3:14) three tracks (and later, more) of Dave's saxes weaving a kind of short-time rondo into chords. At the 90 second mark one sax veers off to go after a crazy free-jazz solo before returning to the fold just as the accordion makes it's debut. Nice construction! (8.5/10)

7. "Mini Hugh" (4:44) opening drum vamp as bass and, eventually, horns establish themselves. By the half-minute mark all have gelled into a steady jazz structure while the drums continue to be on full display. Sean Rickman can play! Organ, horn banks, and individual solos from alto sax, electric piano, fuzzed up bass guitar, and --all the while Sean keeps travelling over his kit as if he were on walkabout. I hear some John Coltrane, Elvin Jones, and Jimmy Garrison in this music. (8.5/10)

8. "That Awful Sky" (4:49) kind of DAVID TORN (or ROBERT FRIPPertronics) and MAX ROACH/PAPA JO JONES meet STEVE REICH and PETER GABRIEL. Very cool, mesmerizing, haunting song. (9/10)

4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of jazz fusion/progressive rock. The music on Rest of the World is interesting-- especially rhythmically, harmonically, and in its sound palette. It is diverse, melodic, deeply harmonic, and full of fun and even tongue-in-cheek jocularity. Highly recommended!

 Blue Dogs by MANNA / MIRAGE album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.97 | 11 ratings

BUY
Blue Dogs
Manna / Mirage Canterbury Scene

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 4.5 stars. A must for anyone into THE MUFFINS as Dave Newhouse spear-headed this project bringing along fellow MUFFINS Billy Swann and Paul Sears. Dave's son George also plays drums along with Paul Sears. We also get a guitarist and French horn player. The music is Canterbury in nature and I like how they give a nod to the past at times plus the humour on display. The album is named after the cover art, a painting by Gonzalo Fuentos Riquelme who happens to be a big fan of Rio/Canterbury.

"Canterbury Bells" is a top three and man what a feel good song this is for me. Like being home really, especially the Canterbury-like keyboards. Bass and a beat support and horns arrive around 1 1/2 minutes. A toe-tapper and head-bobber for sure. A calm 3 minutes in with piano only but soon the drums and keys join in. Horns again after 4 minutes as it stays relaxed. Keyboards end it.

"Duke Street" opens with keys that create a catchy melody before the horns join in. Back to the piano and some percussion before a bass horn or is that clarinet joins in playing a melody over top. Soon horns are blasting. It ends with a sample of a classy man speaking about music and theatre. It's funny.

"Muffin Man Redux" features blasting horns but they are restrained some are taken over by drums, an upright bass, guitar and horns. So much going on. This great sound goes on and on then the intro returns with drums this time. I like when it turns melancholic with a bass horn, percussion, other horns and atmosphere. A darker mood here. The drums signal a change as horns arrive in an upbeat and lighter mood, silly in fact. A change with dark piano lines and melancholic horns, drums and more. So good. Love the sound late too with the distorted keys, piano and drums before that sample of the original Muffin Man song ends it.

"Lost In A Photograph" opens with horns that drone before a beat and bass join in. This is laid back but it does turn louder with keys and horns before settling back again with a lazy horn over top. Themes are repeated.

"Blind Eye" is a top three although I'm not sure how "Muffin Man Redux" isn't in my top three but this is a really good album. This was my favourite right from the very first listen. That dark sounding organ to start sounds amazing before it kicks in with drums. So good! Electric piano only then it kicks back in with horns this time and some inventive guitar as the organ runs. Horns and drums to the fore as it changes then settles back with electric piano, horns and more. A dissonant horn starts to make some noise late.

"Shaving Time" brought HATFIELD & THE NORTH to mind right away. Bass and drums to start and they create this catchy rhythm. Soon horns and more join the fun. The tempo picks up as things get even more lively. Drums only before the clarinet joins in. Horns start to blast as it builds. Here we go! A lot of fun!

"Rovian Cue" is my final top three and maybe my favourite along with "Blind Eye". Man that piano is so uplifting to me as the horns and percussion join in. So beautiful when the flute arrives. Keyboards and piano impress here too. Why am I so moved? Tasteful horns are back then that catchy beat returns with horns then flute as themes are repeated.

Man this was too much fun and so well played and composed of course. Makes it inside my top 20 for 2015 so yeah this was one of the ones I missed a few years ago.

 Blue Dogs by MANNA / MIRAGE album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.97 | 11 ratings

BUY
Blue Dogs
Manna / Mirage Canterbury Scene

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars With a bit of a Canterbury Style music revival picking up steam it is no wonder that the USA's only true contributor to the sub genre, The Muffins would chime in with a contribution of new music. Only, mid- production one of the band's members had to excuse himself, leaving Dave Newhouse, Billy Swann, Paul Sears and friends with the decision of whether or not to move forward. Under the guise of the clear reference to the parent band's 1978 debut album of the same name, Dave and company decided to go ahead and finish the album in progress. Apparently revived by their recent work with Cuneiform label stable mate GUAPO and AltrOck Productions' HOMUNCULUS RES, as well as Richard Wileman's KARDA ESTRA projects, Dave and Paul, respectively, have gathered enough impetus and support to self-produce this album of seven songs which come in at a rather brief 36 minutes in length. And boy are we fortunate and am I happy that they did! I've been dancing around the house and in my car to the likes of the ear candy opener, "Canterbury Bells" (4:50) (10/10), ever since! Everytime I play this in the house my wife says, "That's so Seventies!" And I say, "So?!" The bass, drums, and steady yet-syncopated piano chords bounce us along at a nice walking pace while an odd array of horns and percussion build unusual chord and harmonic layers over the top. Just brilliant! Should be a soundtrack to a video/commercial! One of my favorite songs of the year!

2. "Duke Street" (4:47) opens a little more playfully, with a piano playing a little two-bar ditty over and over in a kind of 50s/60s be-bop style?like Duke Ellington (for whom the song is named and who is present via a tape recorded sound clip from an interview of his at the end of the song), Thelonius Monk, or even Paul Desmond. The foundation established, the jazzy brush-played drums, double bass, and multiple horns play in a kind of big band style?playing as a group in chordal unison while single instruments take turns soloing over the top. If I have any complaint about this song it's that there really is no significant shift of the foundation. (9/10)

3. Muffin Man Redux" (7:23), we find out toward the end, is a jazz song that is built over the ditty that we know as "Do you know the muffin man?" Until the avant shift at the 2:20 mark, the song presents itself as another small-scale big band song?not far from the Glenn Miller or Stan Kenton style. At 3:25 a drum interlude preps us for a kind of carnival-atmosphere in which, at the 4:13 mark, the "Muffin man" theme is presented. At 4:30 the music moves into a very catchy, melodic section with piano, electric bass, and jazzy drums laying another steady foundation over which the At 5:46, the lone piano seems to be beginning a return us to the muffin man melody?but no! another pretty melodic variation picks up and plays on until the final twenty seconds when a single microphone is used to pick up a man and his ukelele playing and singing out the "muffin man" nursery rhyme before saying "bye bye, everyone" in a condescending as-if-to-children voice. Some great sections to this humorous song. (8/10)

4. "Lost in a Photograph" (4:21) opens with a slow jazz big band foundations, double bass and flute gently standing out the most. At 1:10 a shift brings forth a "chorus" melody from the horn section before a sax takes on the lead duties over the original opening foundation. An eminently enjoyable little dirge that even takes on some nice STEELY DAN hues and in the third and fourth minutes. No complaints here! (As a matter of fact, I would not mind at all if this one went on longer!) (9/10)

5. "Blind Eye" (4:57) is the first song on the album that, to my ears, really sounds like an avant/RIO/Canterbury song. The initial rhythm and sounds established are familiar to me in a kind of BRUFORD/YUGEN way. The guitar soloing that begins in the second half of the second minute is quite angular and discordant. The section that begins at 2:15 is pure avant/RIO in a kind of UZED/PRESENT way. The ensuing section uses some very Middle Eastern or klezmer-type melodic sounds and structures?which is then varied and embellished over for the fourth and first half of the fifth minutes before fading away to leave an electric piano to delicately play out the final 40 seconds. An interesting song but not my favorite. (8/10)

6. "Shwang Time" (4:58) opens with a kind of Pink Panther-meets-James Brown kind of feel as double bass and snare drum play with and off of each other. At 0:49 the rest of the little big band joins in with multiple melodies and being represented simultaneously but woven together in a fun, 1960s kind of way. At 1:55 there is a shift into a more insistent, ascendant bass and chordal progression giving the song a kind of YES-like feel! A tom-only drum section allows for some different horn interplay?eventually morphing into what sounds and feels like a 1920s jazz dance piece (with a film-noire detective theme playing within.) Odd but fun song! (9/10)

7. "Rovian Cue" (4:10) obviously refers to Karl Rove's cue ball shaped head. Regardless of the meaning of the title, the song has a kind of slap-happy, fun feel like one of Sweden's DUNGEN's happy songs or something from Sicily's current Canterbury revivalists, HOMUNCULUS RES. The piano play in the final minute feels so much like that of VINCE GUARALDI (jazz pianist most famous for the original Charlie Brown television specials' soundtracks). Next to the album's opener, this is my favorite song on the album. (10/10)

A late comer to the 2015 catalogue of albums, this is one that is well worth everyone's listen and patience?it'll grow on you in a very pleasant way!

Thanks to raff for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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