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ALBUM REVIEW: Manu Riga - Surrounded out on Bonzai Progressive

Surprise or otherwise, Manu doesn’t hail from Riga. Nor is it his real name. It is in fact the alias assumed by Adriaan Baussens, an underground production wunderkind who resides deep inside the Bonzai heartland of Belgium. 

Teasing, to a fair degree, the world of electronic music with his deeply textured productions and reworks, they have been percolating the mixes of more progressively thinking DJs for several years now. From his earliest Bonzai releases like ‘Time In Between’, to his latest outings like ‘Forgotten’ (as well as remixes on the works of Gai Barone, Art of Trance, Moshic and others), his darkly brewed brand of late night absorption has attracted attention from several electronic music quarters 

This month - for the very first time - Manu steps up to the album plate. Artists’ only get one debut longplayer, so it needs to weigh heavy. Manu’s though is nothing short of extraordinary. A 12-track-strong body of work, ‘Surrounded’ serves as an atlas of his exotic musical inspirations and stimuli. Its numbers work as both standalone tracks and – in the album’s odyssey-like end-to-end mix – as a ceaselessly immersive listen. It’s a mix whose transmission moves tactically upwards through tempo & tone phases, whilst largely transcending genre and established categorization. 

For lovers of less regular forms of electronic music fruit, your deepest wishes are about to be fulfilled, your prayers answered -‘Surrounded’ is among us from today.

The album weighs anchor with the shuffling percussion, timeless pads and stargaze celestial-ism of ‘First Steps’. Albeit coolly and with tempo most casual, its followed by ‘Moments Of Sobriety’, which introduces drums to the album, tinting them with Far Eastern resonance and instrumentation. 

‘Migration’ and ‘Indigenous Rights’ drops the bass frequencies further, bringing greater depths, roll and groove to ‘Surrounded’s progress. Raising the drama meanwhile are its title track (complete with the haunt of singer Mimi’s vocals) and the dubby echology of the Massive Attack-like ‘Immortal Sins’.

As it transits into its second act, ‘Surrounded’ slowly, but perceptibly changes gears, moving from outright progressive onto a more trance-prog footing. As a triplet, ‘Cry To Oblivion’, ‘Urge To Live’ and ‘I Don’t Need You’ generate a more galactic, open-natured feel to the album, adding shades of Sasha & Digweed and early Leftfield to its sonic palette. 

‘When The Day Is Gone’ and ‘Get Me Down’ edge it further upwards, setting elegiac cello & viola strings against sub-bass and contrasting orchestral piano notes with the ether of rainforest FX. Concluding its stylistic journey, and bringing it near full circle, ‘Forgotten’ provides the perfect dénouement. A beat-less swansong, with Fe Malefiz’s somewhat Bjork-like vocals delivering a poigniance that lingers long after ‘Surrounded’s final note.

Pick ‘Surrounded’ up via Beatport here: click here 

Manu Riga - ‘Surrounded’ Tracklist:
01 First Steps
02 Moments Of Sobriety
03 Migrations
04 Indigenous Rights
05 Surrounded (featuring Mimi)
06 Immortal Sins
07 Cry To Oblivion
08 Urge To Live
09 I Don’t Need You
10 Get Me Down
11 When The Day Is Gone
12 Forgotten (featuring Fe Malefiz)(Last Day On Earth Mix)
13 Surrounded – Continuous Bonus Mix (album only track)

Dimitri Kechagias review:
[review top="1"]
 [item value="10"]Beat and Rhythm[/item]
 [item value="10"]Basslines and Groove[/item]
 [item value="10"] Melody [/item]
 [item value="10"] Synths [/item]
 [item value="10"]Spoken Vocals[/item]
 [item value="10"]Breakdown[/item]
 [item value="10"]Climax  / Drop / Crescendo / Pay off moment[/item]
 [item value="10"]Intensity, Drive and Energy[/item]
 [item value="10"]Sound-design and Arrangement[/item]
 [item value="10"]Overall Atmosphere[/item]
 [item value="10"]Goosebumps / Shivers moments[/item]
 [item value="10"]Emotional affinity and heartfelt moments[/item]
 [item value="10"]Originality and Inventiveness[/item]
 [item value="10"]Dancefloor Efficiency / Festival Arenas Effectiveness[/item]
 [item value="10"]You can’t get this memorable track out of your head[/item]
 [item value="10"]It has potential to become an anthem or a classic[/item]
 [item value="10"]Manu Riga - Surrounded [/item]
 [content title="Summary" label="Overall Score"]Bonzai Progressive is one of the most influential labels in the electronic music scene back in the trance heydays and now with the resurrection of quality trance and melodic progressive house. Manu Riga is one of the most prolific artists on the label and his album Surrounded showcases his maturity and incredible talent. 12 stunning compositions that promise to Surround you with memorable melodies, energetic danceable grooves and magnificent energy that will charge your adrenaline and awake your imagination. First Steps is the perfect Intro track with relaxing smooth groove, emotional synths and spoken vocal sample that makes the difference. Moments Of Sobriety is equally deep dark progressive beauty with unusual beat while on top traditional instrument that resembles guitar plays the hypnotic rhythm. Migrations applies again lighter basslines, playful grooves and cinematic breakdown with big orchestral strings while the spoken vocal sample invite us to escape our fears. Indigenous Rights includes fantastic ethnic vocals melted perfectly with the pulsating basslines and the smooth driving rolling groove. The spoken vocal sample remind us how we should protect the earth for the future generations. Surrounded (featuring Mimi) is deep emotional heavy percussive piece with heavenly voices, exotic atmosphere and female spoken vocal about how we are surrounded by emotions that don't allow us to reach our full potential. Immortal Sins includes unusual chunky grooves with ethnic orient middle east voices that will raise the hair from your back and get you deeper inside in the sonic adventure that we are part of. Cry To Oblivion is more minimal tech house affair with hypnotic mystical voices upon the wobbly experimental groove while the spoken vocal says how darkness was turned into light. Urge To Live applies magical piano melody on top of the deep energetic groove and electroish bassline. Superb orchestral strings and heavenly voices are melted into one imaginative sound puzzle of emotions. Certainly it gives you that urge to keep on leaving. I Don’t Need You continues the journey with soulful house spoken sample upon the chunky techy groove with metallic basslines. Get Me Down is a dark moody song with cool male vocals while the moody atmosphere and the cinematic strings create the right sonic environment. When The Day Is Gone is moving on the melodic deep house direction that we listen quite often nowadays but Manu's great twist on the genre. Piano melodies, weirdly beautifully female vocals and melodramatic tones upon the smooth foundation that keep the flow nicely. Lastly Forgotten (featuring Fe Malefiz)(Last Day On Earth Mix) is the perfect outro version with chill out and ambient influences. Cinematic strings, electronic melodies and Bjork influenced vocals close this so different but so fantastic album. #PureClass #PureGold Love it [/content]

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