FOR over a decade now, Manch­ester Or­ches­tra have made a ca­reer putting out records that sound noth­ing like the last.they’ve earned life-long fans through the depth of emo­tion in front­man Andy Hull’s song­writ­ing, and re­tained that au­di­ence with con­stant in­no­va­tion and ex­per­i­men­ta­tion. It’s al­most iron­i­cally pre­dictable, then, that this al­bum is once again a stun­ning rein­ven­tion.

Hav­ing re­cently writ­ten the score for Daniel Rad­cliffe movie, Swiss Army Man,andy and gui­tarist Robert Mcdow­ell have a few new tricks up their open­ing songthe Maze builds to a tow­er­ing crescendo, by way of muted gui­tars and moody keys, and the song’s many lay­ers start to un­furl, it be­comes ap­par­ent that one of those tricks is a re­fined mas­tery of at­mos­phere. From then on, that at­mos­phere, in var­i­ous forms and de­grees of in­ten­sity, be­comes the defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic of A Black Mile To The Sur­face.

Mu­si­cally, po­tent use of dy­nam­ics and a canyon­wide range of unique sounds and in­stru­men­ta­tion man­ages to cre­ate some­thing that eludes many bands with sim­i­larly grand am­bi­tions: an al­bum that flows to­gether per­fectly with­out its songs ever blur­ring into one. Sub­tle pat­terns and melodies re­cur across tracks, stealth­ily ty­ing the al­bum to­gether, while each of its most poignant mo­ments man­age to stand out on their own.a haunt­ing re­frain of ‘Do you need me?’ on The Alien man­ages to find new hairs to raise with each rep­e­ti­tion, while The Gro­cery’s steady as­cent to a eu­phoric re­lease is noth­ing short of breath­tak­ing.

This is the first Mo record that Andy has writ­ten since be­com­ing a fa­ther, so themes of fam­ily and re­spon­si­bil­ity un­der­stand­ably take up con­sid­er­able lyri­cal real es­­bum high­light­the Parts is a heart­warm­ing ode to Andy’s wife, and on the afore­men­tioned opener he seeks to de­ci­pher his young daugh­ter’s mind by writ­ing from her per­spec­tive. else­where, his mus­ings on mor­tal­ity are de­liv­ered with a new weight of sever­ity.andy has al­ways been con­sid­ered a gifted sto­ry­teller, but the pic­tures painted here are his most vivid to date.

Over­all,a Black Mile… is a some­what sub­dued of­fer­ing and far from Manch­ester Or­ches­tra’s most im­me­di­ately tune­ful record.writ­ing ‘hits’ was never the aim here.while that might de­ter some, those that re­main in­ter­ested will find the most in­spired al­bum of an al­ready am­bi­tious band’s ca­reer.this is a painstak­ingly com­posed work of art – and an ab­so­lute masterpiece at that. DOWN­LOAD: The Alien,the Parts. FOR Fans OF: Brand New, Suf­jan Stevens.

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