Ross Manning: Reflex In Waves

- I first started listening to Ross Manning back when he was a callow youth, nutting out scary, fuzzy idm under the moniker 4 Layers Of 9. About the only thing I could find of that, now, was a myspace page which -like all myspace pages- has become eerily, inhumanly empty. He has plenty of other old feathers in his cap as well of course, as a member of Faber Castell and Sky Needle for instance. Those other acts have been scuppered too, but, happily, Ross is almost certainly best known now for the work he does under his own name.

It’s not wholly musical -that’s not an insult- Ross is an interdisciplinary artist living between worlds. His pursuit is, at its core, concerned with the production of sound, examining the generation of sine-waves and the vibration of objects. On top of that he constructs unique machinery, instruments that generate the noises he’s after and which oscillate between the harmonic and the percussive, the tuneful and the cacophonous.

So much of what Ross does is tied to the installations he creates. The sound is unique to those spaces and by design, the way people who enter them interact with what he’s created. So much is the case with his latest work Dissonant Rhythms which opened at the Institute Of Modern Art in Brisbane, earlier this year.

His new LP, arriving, appropriately, on Room40, could therefore be seen as something less? An aural post-card of the event and “wish you were here?” You could say that of any band, though, an album is always divorced from the live context and only a moment in the craft of any musician.

What does this particular moment sound like? Well, if I had to do it the injustice of boiling it down to a single sentence: it sounds like a gamelan that has somehow slipped the control of its human performers. In a way that’s exactly what you’d expect, right? It’s both machine-like and chaotic, at times pleasing to the ears in more traditional ways and at times an explosion of rhythmic and harmonic strangeness. For all that -at its most anarchic- the patterns of Ross’ work can spill over each other in wild profusion, they seem, as per Ross’ overarching design, to cleave to an underlying, meditative blueprint.

That’s what I take from it anyhow. If it’s an injustice to not experience Ross’ work in its original context, it’s obviously an even greater injustice to have someone describe a recording of it at second hand. You might want to experience it for yourself.

- Chris Cobcroft.

Album Details

Album Title: Reflex In Waves
Artist: Ross Manning
Record Label: (Room40)