Record Review: Man Forever Create Intriguing Percussion-Heavy Art Rock On Ryonen

by | Apr 24, 2014 | MUSIC

The best thing about art rock is that it doesn’t have to make any sense to be successful. In fact, the less I understand an artist’s work upon first review, the more intriguing it becomes, and the more motivated I am to figure it out. This was undoubtedly the case with the new Man Forever album, Ryonen (Thrill Jockey).


The best thing about art rock is that it doesn’t have to make any sense to be successful. In fact, the less I understand an artist’s work upon first review, the more intriguing it becomes, and the more motivated I am to figure it out. This was undoubtedly the case with the new Man Forever album, Ryonen (Thrill Jockey).

Man Forever is a side project headed by John Colpitts (aka Kid Millions), of the Brooklyn-based experimental rock group Oneida. The project has involved a long list of collaborators since its formation in 2010, the most recent being the internationally acclaimed percussion quartet, So Percussion, who appear on Ryonen.

Earlier this year, Colpitts released Boanerges, a collaboration with Jim Sauter of Borbetomagus, which was both the first time that a Man Forever album featured a saxophone and the first Man Forever album including more than two songs. With Ryonen, Man Forever returns to form, and the whole of the nearly thirty minute piece is separated into only two dizzyingly constructed, drum-centric tracks.

Titled “The Clear Realization”, the first song on Ryonen begins with five seconds of eerily chaotic and subdued metallic clangs, before jumping into a simple but forceful rhythm. Over the next two minutes the song evolves incrementally into a more intricately textured, but still metrically reliable sound. At first the ambient echoing of the vocals, which come in a little over two minutes into the track, seem a bit awkward, but after a while they build up into a chorus of slightly independent tones, and the resonant effect produced is pretty badass.

The title track of the album, which is a titanic eighteen minutes long, has a distinctly different feel from the first song. Starting with a short, medium pitched, cymbal crash-—which sounds suspiciously similar to the release of air brakes on a semi truck—-the song immediately erupts with a disorienting amalgam of bongo style drum beats. The entire first half of the song reminds me of a steam-engine train rumbling down an old corrugated metal track. At the eight minute mark, this feeling ends as abruptly as it began, with a fading bass hit that totally sounds like this Fatality Theme from Mortal Kombat 3. Eventually the characteristic rhythm of the song returns, once again accompanied by a haunting atmosphere of backing vocals.

Overall, the most impressive aspect of Ryonen is the quality of the recording. Even the most subtle accenting drum hits never get lost in the tidal wave of compounding sounds that roll through this album from start to finish. The general nature of Ryonen seems markedly meditative, with enough repetition to hypnotize the listener, and enough variety to remain interesting. In the end, did I understand this project? No. But did I enjoy it? Emphatically yes.

Man Forever will be coming through Richmond on Sunday, April 27th to play a free show at Balliceaux (203 N. Lombardy St), along with local chamber music ensemble Classical Incarnations. For more info on this event, click here. Anyone interested in checking out Man Forever’s recorded material can listen to some previews here. Oh yeah… and then there is this video?

Marilyn Drew Necci

Marilyn Drew Necci

Former GayRVA editor-in-chief, RVA Magazine editor for print and web. Anxiety expert, proud trans woman, happily married.




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