Dense, dank and ready to invade your speakers, Winooski's Manifest Nexto Me's sophomore release Forever From Now On delivers on the band's newfound live power. Somewhere between hip-hop, Bitches Brew-era Miles Davis and rock, Manifest crisscross musical genres with conviction and authority. Once tagged as a hippie-ish jazz-hop act, the band is finally revealing its true nature.
Fronted by vocalist/Rhodes pianist Christopher Lee Kipper and vocalist/keyboardist Michael Angelo Morelli, Manifest are like a psychedelic urban nightmare in a sleepy rural state. Smart lyrics, sheets of sound and a bounding rhythm section separate the group from conventional hip-hoppers and chops-obsessed fusion acts. There's a palpable melancholy in their music, and Forever From Now On sounds anything but sunny.
"Everything you touch leaves a scar on your soul," Kipper and Morelli chant over the devilish soundscapes of "Shadows Below." Bassist William Leber Schebaum lays down a monster groove that's somewhere between the dark dub of Massive Attack and stoner-rock. Drummer P.J. Davidian -- recently replaced by ex-Concentric skinsman Tobias Rower -- performs admirably on this disc.
There are some terrific guest appearances as well. Alen Cileli -- Deep's Soda's freakazoid guitarist -- contributes sinister yet melodic violin lines, while Daniel Delacruz of reggae renegades John Brown's Body blows some heady saxophone. Vocalist Miriam Bernardo offers her sultry voice to a couple of tunes, including the interestingly named "Mystic Moth."
The Middle Eastern-flavored track "The Fountain" uncoils like a serpent, twisting and turning around Schebaum's bass line and Cileli's violin figure.usically it's dark stuff, but Kipper and Morelli's lyrics are often quite uplifting -- spiritual clarity in a world of corruption is the record's prominent theme. Both vocalists possess their own unique flair; Kipper's chant-raps are well balanced by Morelli's more traditional rhyme style.
I was psyched when I heard that Rower was going to occupy the drum stool.
Davidian is a fine percussionist, but he seems rooted in jam/fusion. Rower -- known for his biomechanical beats and metronomic discipline -- is sure to further tighten their sound. I can't wait to hear him on the next release.
I like to think of this record as Manifest Nexto Me's true debut. Progression is sometimes difficult to chart in local music, but this group has seriously evolved. Loaded with impressive twists and turns, Forever From Now On is a victory for the band and a reward for their growing fan base.