Greystones’ own Mano Le Tough (Niall Mannion to his Ma) has been quietly building buzz amongst the house community, domestic and international, on the back of a string of well received EPs since 2009. Carefully choosing interesting artists like Aloe Black and Roisin Murphy to remix has allowed him to expand his fan-base even further. Last year, the Irish-born, Berlin-based DJ and producer thought the time was ripe to try his hand at an album proper of his self-proclaimed “folkal house.”
From the first listen it’s clear that ‘Changing Days’ is not a collection of atmospheric house epics like Mountains that we’ve become accustomed to. Instead, Mano le Tough has served up an album intended to be consumed as a whole. There’s a clear shift in momentum since his previous releases. With ‘Changing Days’, his mission statement is clear. This cerebral debut is more headphones than hedonism. It’s not dissimilar to label mate, John Talabot’s ‘ƒIN’ from 2012 which also sought to be heard beyond the dancefloor.
One of the key developments is the prominence of Mannion’s own vocal. Though previously rolled out on EPs such as 2011’s ‘In My Arms’, it’s very much front and center here. Mannion’s vocals are largely inoffensive, perfectly pliable and lend themselves well to digital manipulation. One such track is album opener, Canibalize, where vocals are not an added texture but act as the key element which the rest of the composition is arranged around. It kicks off proceedings in a very gentle, lo-fi manner.
It’s less of an acute assault, allowing more room for the songs to expand and evolve into mellow soundscapes. Despite the electronic foundation of Mano’s music, the album manages to maintain a wholly human vibe. Nature is a central theme which seems to carry consistently throughout the album and is especially prominent on tracks like Moment of Truth which uses tribal chants as its centerpiece and album closer, The Sea Inside, which uses lapping waves to great effect. The vocoder treated vocal and bright, zealous synths of A Thing From Above, Mano’s ode to outer space, is an album highlight.
Emotion is woven into the fabric of this LP. This is all-inclusive dance music, nuanced and unlikely to offend any ears. It’s testament to this that the album made it onto the Meteor Choice Music Prize 2013 Shortlist amongst artists who are known to appeal to the masses like Villagers and Kodaline. ‘Changing Days’ is a different animal from his singles of yore and it feels like this was a very conscious deviation. The album format really seems to suit Mano le Tough and we look forward to enjoying more of the same.