'Mangabros: Boys from the Blackstuff' by James Phaily

This summer saw the release of Doncaster “progtronica” collective Manga Brothers’ distinctively otherworldly long-player deepfleshred on Fusion Records. The album looks at life from a distinctly feminine perspective and although Mangabros head honcho Craig wrote all the lyrics and music himself, he has collaborated with some fantastic female vocalists to produce an ethereal record which occupies a space of distinctive otherness.
The Mangabros sound is difficult to place, but tentatively I would like to suggest that it occupies a liminal space betwixt two worlds. The album skilfully embraces a new, sonic surreality/a zone that encourages us to trance out and be healed by our visions, hopes and dreams.
Craig is not classically trained and doesn’t read music: however, the people he mixes with who do are all astounded, saying that he must be able to because of the skilful way in which he makes music. All he can say on the subject is that he knows what sounds good sonically and melodically, although he doesn’t like cliché and tends to avoid classic chord sequences.
Craig Manga recently subverted this concept in the song “Tallest Man on the Planet,” (also on deepfleshred) by actually using classic chord patterns, giving people what they want and then destroying this equilibrium in a distinctive assault upon the “control” system. Originally written on acoustic guitar, the track was then given the Mangabros treatment, which involved singing saws, a “John Cage style” prepared piano, guitar distortion and toy percussion. The track went on to become the co-winner of the Sine FM Musicbomb Songwriting Competition.
There is a very liminal quality to the new album and the Mangabros sound in general. This sensorium transports us to places of inbetweenness. Intellectually offering the sonic sensation of a series of questioning emotions, which belong both everywhere and nowhere? Craig is happy with that.
The new album deepfleshred is doing something progressive with electronica. For this writer it takes him to a place where the memories of all those classic movies and arthouse films that shaped his mindscape (cue: Rosemary’s Baby, Hardware, Blade Runner, Kenneth Anger’s Magick Lantern Cycle) have been hardwired to his brain…The greatest film I’ve never seen!
Craig claims to be cursed by the plural; utilizing many collaborations and always describes Mangabros as a band. However, Craig sadly laments the departure of his long-term collaborator Paul Manga who, due to health reasons, can no longer offer textures of shredded guitar. Craig now finds himself in a distinctively solitary situation regarding his music.
Fortunately upon the periphery is a coterie of musicians including “Audio-Visual Artist” John Alexander (Johnny Manga) and Tim Manga (modular synths: from dance electronic outfit, Uncles of Wise) who contribute to recording and live duties.
There is a distinctive mythic quality contained in everything Mangabros do and deepfleshred is part one of two. There is a complex, conceptual narrative running through the new album which could only be elucidated from Craig’s highly individual mind-set: this first release looking at life from a feminine point of view and the one after being masculine has Craig singing all the songs.
Recently Craig performed at a recent festival in Gainsborough accompanied by the Lincoln-based creator of sonic machines Peter K. Rollings. Craig says it was one of the most enjoyable musical experiences of his life. Craig loves the way that the project is becoming more amusing and fun.
For example, at a recent gig in Derby, Craig grabbed a lectern, wore a cassock and instigated an impromptu sermon for the song Rev. Lazarus, skilfully and convincingly inhabiting the character of a born again Preacher. On the subject of religion Craig likes to look on the bright-side and is firmly agnostic. Let’s just say that he believes in the light of hope. Another example of Craig being somewhat satirical can be heard on the Porno Karaoke song narratives “Tall Tales of the Skin” which points fun at the machinery of pornography.
Craig believes that art is magic. The man himself is a firm surrealist who believes we can change the status quo through creativity. Craig is a trained graphic designer and primarily studied Art and English at college. Craig loves artists like the surrealist René Magritte and the Dutch graphics of MC. Escher: the former in particular who with sound mathematics deceives our visual cues. Using Escher as an analogy it is easy to see how Mangabros got its non-linear/subversive/ agitant stance and creates a strange surreality of a certain order, out of the chaos of inspiration.
There is something inherently subversive about the Mangabros sound and you could never say that anything the collective do is throwaway. Craig deals with important issues and uses his project to hold them up against the light. Steeped in William Burroughs and J.G. Ballard, meeting Craig is somewhat akin to witnessing a discourse from a creative dynamo. His knowledge of not just music but underground culture itself is somewhat encyclopaedic. Both he and his music are encouraging you to free your mind and actually do something that matters…
Deepfleshred is out now On Fusion Records (UK), Amazon and Spotify.

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