Review - Up In Flames

Artist: Manitoba

Up In Flames
Label: Domino
Media: CD
Format: Album
WorkNameSort: Up In Flames

By 1991, a second wave of "shoe-gazer" bands like Spiritualized, Chapterhouse and Spirea X expanded upon the hazy, psychedelic pop of groups like Lush and the Pale Saints in favor of absolute trippy gauziness. But by the end of '91 -- with the release of watershed albums like My Bloody Valentine's "Loveless" and Primal Scream's "Screamadelica" -- the shoe-gazing book was essentially closed, as those two albums said all that could be said within the genre and most of the other bands had moved onto other areas of musical exploration. Yet here we are a dozen years later (Has it been that long?), and Manitoba (aka a lone Canadian by the name of Dan Snaith) takes up the genre's wispy, beat-driven ethereality on "Up In Flames." Snaith had already established Manitoba as an IDM project with 2001's "Start Breaking My Heart," but here, he looks backward for inspiration and comes up with something wonderful. Up In "Flames" is possessed of all the densely layered guitars and effects that made the 4AD and Creation labels such havens for interesting, dreamy pop in the early '90s, but Snaith also has more than a couple Warp records stashed in his crates. Thus, this album -- especially with tracks like the melodically dense "Skunks" and the militaristic jazz rumble of "Twins" -- resolves the glistening chasm between IDM's starkness and the joys of richly evocative pop music by simply taking the best of both and creating something unique.