Blank Manuskript are yet another of those bands who have been happily going around releasing albums and somehow never making it into my orbit until now. Formed in Austria in 2007, this is their third album, and I really am not sure what to say about it, apart from I really like it! The quintet are Jakob Aistleitner (saxophone, flute, electric guitar, glockenspiel, percussion, vocals), Peter Baxrainer (electric and acoustic guitar, percussion, vocals), Jakob Sigl (drums, percussion, viola, tape, vocals), Dominik Wallner (piano, electric piano, organ, synthesizer, vocals) and Alfons Wohlmuth (electric bass, flute, bottles, vocals). It was Alfons who contacted me, and I am both pleased and dismayed he did , as while I have really enjoyed it, I have no idea how to truly describe it and get across in words what it is like to listen to.
Lyrically it deals with the concept of loneliness versus the concept of community and works around that theme using various scenarios from birth to death and musically it can be very delicate, at others almost overpowering: there were times when I found myself checking the player to see if I was still on the same album or if it has moved onto the next one on my list. It is incredibly diverse, and there is the impression that these guys like to use a studio almost as a laboratory, adding and refining what they are doing. They are like a mini orchestra, but while some may think this means they are being symphonic (and they can be) this is way more experimental, with certain instruments taking key roles in certain songs and not being used at all in others. It is incredibly diverse as they move from RIO to experimental and avant garde though art rock and multiple other styles. They are very removed indeed to what I normally think of as European progressive rock, and if someone had asked me to guess the country of origin I would have definitely said the band was Russian as it has far more in common with the music I hear from there, which is far removed from the normal Western progressive influences.
It is timeless music which is very much of the present, but also invokes the days when the British progressive scene was exploding and the idea was for each band to push boundaries in their own way as opposed to all becoming clones of each other. It is refreshing, joyous and progressive in its’ very truest sense. This is not for those who want their progressive rock to fit in certain constraints and styles but is one for those who remember when the term was a truism as opposed to a name to describe a genre. Definitely one which progheads need to discover.
8/10 Kev Rowland