Musicians that can have a laugh about themselves are the best. I don’t know if the guys over at the Manna Frost Trio are like that, but they definitely seem like it. They do not only scale their trio from one to five musicians on live gigs, but also use an anagram of their own name to title their current album “As for Martinton” - and thereby strictly speaking release their second self titled album. I am puzzled about whether they are referring to the little village in Illinois that did not even have 400 occupants in the year 2000 census but frankly I do not care.
I may be a bit late on that, because they already released this album near the end of July 2013 but they deserve some more press coverage - if I qualify, which I do not. Together with the album, they released a four track EP titled “Under the Bed” that has five different beds pictured on the cover for your convenience and contains none of the songs from the album. But anyway: Enough of the stats. Lets talk about the album “As for Martinton”
This particular release caught my eye first - ears thereafter - by its interesting cover. You are free to disagree, but I was interested what that wild arrangement of lines was all about and then discovered, it was an explanation for their album title.
This 10 track album puts me in a difficult spot. I can not quite put it into a genre and that is often a good thing. Music that I can put into a drawer and label it “Rock or whatever” is usually boring and generic. This is not. The tags on Bandcamp put it into many different corners: alternative, americana, folk and rock. They are chosen by the band themselves and without question span across a broad area of different styles and - to be honest - say nothing about the release. While first listening to the album, I was reminded heavily of Mumford and Sons, who had their huge breakthrough with their quite melancholic album “Sigh no more” in 2009. Manna Frost Trio however are not the same. Especially the arrangement and choice of instruments leaves no doubt: there are similarities - but nobody is copying.
The 10 tracks are mostly a guitar (and other things with strings you can pluck or strum) to set the mood and melodic vocals that use folk derived harmonies. There is also very mild percussion. I suggest that after reading this, you go here and have a listen, because the whole thing is on Bandcamp. Keep it running as you read on and I promise, you might have finished reading before the first song is over.
The album starts quiet and most of the time stays that way. The featured song “Waste I Will” sets the tone. I suggest you take a look at the lyrics and drop me a line if you understand them (this goes for all songs). Its a little bit difficult to guess what might have been on the writer’s mind when he wrote the lyrics but I have a slight feeling that I do. They sometimes get a little carried away - but who does not?
If I didn’t hate the term “indie” so much, I would say, most of the songs on this album are proper indie songs. They even have the small section, where everything bursts into what seems excessive escalation and the quiet baseline profile that is a key part in indie music. Notable stray songs that do not fit the bill are “Family Reunion Part 1” and “Part 2” that account for the two tags “americana” and “rock” being in the Bandcamp tags. They are more driven and more determined to make your head move a little with the groove. The rhythm takes a much more noticeable place in the panorama and the lead guitar gets all crunchy, american and “rotary in your face” (thanks nick). Here, the lyrics are very clear and quite heavy, too. I guess, there was something to tell.
The following song, titled “When You Leave”, swerves back into the stylistic baseline of the album with a very melancholic and sad mood. Yet, the hope that is missing from the lyrics sprinkles the flat but in some parts sunrise-like melody. The indie-loving lady of the house even reckons that this is the most notable song of the album. I do not dare to say anything else, since this really puts some feeling and emotion in the room that you can not avoid, even though I am quite unsure what exactly it is.
“All Turned Around” definitely slow-dance-enables this album with a nice 3/4 rhythm. Grab the person next to you, a few candles and dance cheek to cheek for 3:26 - and please don’t listen to the lyrics, because it will helplessly ruin the mood or put both of you in a think-trap, wondering what it might all be about.
The “one up to five” person trio closes with a nice “guitar and vocals” track named “Life so Kind”. Wait - I heard a shaker there… It is a good closing song, quiet - even more quiet than the rest of the songs and with a lot of heart. You can almost feel them waving goodbye in the studio while recording this.
So much about the songs, but what about the quality? If I may say (which I do not), this is very well made music of people who must love making music or be very well at pretending. It drips of heart and soul - which it should, being partly in the folk genre. It is not that kind of “they put so much love into this” that you would use to say “it’s rubbish, but they are so cute failing.” - It is a great piece of music - from an emotional as well as from a technical point of view.
I am the opposite of disappointed with this and really like listening to it. It is not something to have in the background while attending other chores, but it is a nice album for a quiet evening in winter - preferably not alone. Have a cup of tea - the before mentioned candles and you are in for a melancholic but warm evening with - who would have thought - a small romantic dance intermission. Thank God it was released in the blazing heat of the summer 2013 - so it had a lot to grow into.
You can have this as a FLAC/MP3/… digital release for 10 USD or for the same price plus shipping a physical copy (CDDA) of the album over at the As For Martinton Bandcamp Page. Please also listen to their other releases: The four track EP “Under The Bed” (2013) and the self-titled Manna Frost Trio debut from 2011 - which sounds a little bit more raw than this one.
Thank you for listening. Thank you for reading. Stay amused.