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A Black Mile to the Surface [Slipcase] *


Product Description
Product Details
Performer Notes
  • Personnel: Andy Hull (vocals, guitar); Robert McDowell (guitar, keyboards, background vocals); Tim Very (drums).
  • Audio Mixer: Catherine Marks.
  • Recording information: Echo Mountain Recording; Elmwood West; Favorite Gentlemen Studios; The Village Studios.
  • Photographers: The Daniels; Mike Dempsey.
  • Georgia's Manchester Orchestra deliver one of their most balanced and mature efforts with their fifth full-length album, 2017's measured A Black Mile to the Surface. Technically, the album is a follow-up to the group's 2014 return to electric guitar-based hardcore, Cope, and companion piece Hope, which featured acoustic reworkings of songs from Cope. That said, A Black Mile to the Surface also follows on the heels of lead singer Andy Hull and keyboardist Robert McDowell's much lauded and experimental soundtrack to the 2016 dark comedy-drama Swiss Army Man. That album found them crafting entirely vocal-based arrangements that evoked both the layered harmonies of the Beach Boys and the minimalist classical compositions of Steve Reich. Rather than separate any of these disparate sounds this time out, on A Black Mile to the Surface they offer a modicum of all three, shifting from intensely played, post-hardcore-influenced rock to ruminative acoustic balladry and layered soundscapes, often within the same song. That they do so with the assuredness of a veteran band coming into its own speaks to their dedication and hard-won maturity since debuting over a decade ago. Helping to achieve this balance is producer Catherine Marks (PJ Harvey, Coheed and Cambria, Interpol), who, along with Hull and McDowell, brings a warmth and sophistication to even the most downbeat of the album's tracks. Hull once again proffers up a set of deeply emotive and literate songs that are well served by the album's overall balanced tone. Barring the Pixies-esque "Lead, SD," every song here, like the twangy, ruminate folk-rocker "The Gold," the atmospheric, piano-laden "The Alien," and the swirling, poignant, folk-inflected "The Grocery," have simple, direct titles. It's as if Hull and his band have crafted an album of symbolic sculptures instead of songs. Fittingly, they find him toiling with myriad personal and relationship issues, like confronting fatherhood on "The Maze," and generally trying to figure out his place as an adult in the world. On "The Grocery," he sings "Want to hold a light to paradigm and strip it to its feet/I want to feel the way my father felt, is it easier for me?" Based on the nuanced opacity of these lyrics and the artful moodiness of the music, the answer will likely remain an elusive puzzle for listeners to ponder. Thankfully, Manchester Orchestra have made an album well worth pondering over. ~ Matt Collar
Professional Reviews
Alternative Press - 4.5 stars out of 5 -- " MO retain their grittier side, hidden in sneakier buildups and quieter moments of tension....One of modern rock's most consistently great bands just raised the bar again."

Magnet - "Combining the ear texture and atmosphere that Manchester Orchestra developed on SIMPLE MATH and HOPE with the sentimental, impassioned rock of its first two records, the band delivers a brilliant and assured version of itself."

Paste (magazine) - "There is dialogue buried deep in the mix, hidden layers of piano tracks, and vocal harmonies with heavy reverb are stacked high, yet none of it ever feels over the top or in danger of crumbling under the weight of its self-assigned grandiosity."

Pitchfork (Website) - "Manchester Orchestra's new album is their most confounding and thrilling work yet, with the most grandiose narrative concepts, production, and arrangements of their career."
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