|Long a tantalizing promise in his Alternatives column bio, The Book of Flame brings together the thorny mathematics of Michael Manring's tuning theories with his wide-ranging artistic vision, the unalloyed metal aggression of Thonk with the melodic and textural sensibilities of Drastic Measures, the icy austerity of electronica and the sensuality of Afro-Asian modes and rhythms. The resulting construction could collapse under its own weight if not for Michael's maturing compositional sense and his always-lurking sense of humor.
Opening with an annuncitory chord that fades into a trippy auto-phased swirl, "The Fire Sermon" is a two-handed rhythmic tour de force delivered on and alternate-tuned 10-string and flavored with harmonics, hammered echoes, and dramtic string scrapes. After establighing that lofty mood, Manring subverts it with "Adult Content/Brief Nudity," a B-movie-soundtrack-from-Mars that finds Paul McCandless's bass clarient slinking amid Michael's pointillist groove and taunting solo (played on Zon Hyperbass tuned CFBbEb). The EBow makes its entrance in "The Book of Lies," as Michael's keening slide line floats over a wry groove that's punctuated with b5ths and double-stop harmonics. (The melody's mood will be familiar to anyone who's heard the diabloical English horn solo in Vaughn Williams's tone poem "Job.") A contrasting section pits industrial percussion against a double-stop onstinato and fuzzed-out high-register wails.
Manring explores similar mockery in "Theseus in the Rains" with a nervously staccato altered-scale groove (the b5 is a leitmotif ont this CD) underpinning a skittering octave melody. On the solo-bass "No Wontons for Elvis" Michael morphs tastefully hammered chords (in CGDA tuning) into a jagged string bending exercise, a classic Chuck Berry 5th-6th-7th line, and then a manic atonal flurry before bringing it all back together via a baroque flavored decending sequence. Whew. But can he play bass? The simple root-b7th groove on "Your Ad" provides the answer.
A compendium of exotic tones, techniques, tunings, and instruments--the Paroutaud Music Laboratories 5-string fretless Infinite Sustain prototype makes an appearance--The Book of Flame is also a compleeing, deeply felt work of multi-faceted musicianship. While explring his instruments' limits, Michael takes us to his musical essence.
-Richard Johnston, Bass Player Magazine.
It's been five years since his last disc, but monster bassist Michael Manring finally returns with an inventive new collection of solo and ensemble instrumentals. On this effort, the lord of low frequencies combines his innovative rhythms, harmonics, altered tunings and textures with ambient and trip-hop influences. The result is a subtle and effective departure from Thonk, his 1994 metal-edged testosterone-fest. Combined with equal dollops of rock, pop and chamber music leanings, Book of Flame's contemporary vibe is diverse without being disjointed. The disc is further spiced up by guest appearances from windsman Paul McCandless, drummer Tim Alexander, hammered dulcimer master Michael Masley and percussionist/sibling Doug Manring. Of particular note is the "The Book of Living and Dying" -- a poignant solo piece dedicated to legendary guitarist Michael Hedges who passed away late last year.
-Anil Prasad, Innerviews
Manring's obvious quality is his willingness to create layers of textures on his bass withinteresting variations in sound. His soloing is often fretless and very fluent. There are several impressive solo bass pieces recorded live without editing or overdubs. Manring's rhythms range from funky to exotic with a more world music vocabulary to his compostions. Most of the tracks find Manring playing all the instruments which include synth, percussion, samples, loops and kitchen utensils. There is no real genre to classify this music, which makes it that much more interesting. Manring is stretching the boundaries of electric bass sound and bass composition.
-Mike Haid, Fuse Magazine