Jonas Munk, aka Manual, has been quite the busy guy. Last year, he released Into Forever, a celestially-minded collaboration with Icebreaker International. Then, earlier this year, he released The North Shore, his entry into Darla’s long-running “Bliss Out” series (and another collaboration, with Limp’s Jess Kahr). And now, just in time for the dead of winter, he’s released the summery, tropical Golden Sun, a collaboration with Jakob Skott (Syntaks, Limp).
As might be implied by the sleeve artwork, which depicts palm trees dissolving into a golden sky, the album brings together the various sounds and textures of Manual’s last two albums and takes them all on a tropical vacation. Munk and Skott are clearly going for a very relaxed, almost nostalgic tone on the album — which might explain the skateboarding-related sample that opens the album — and as such, take it very easy and relaxed themselves. At times, the album gets a little too relaxed, and Munk and Skott seem to rely a bit too much on the inherent loveliness of their sound palette to keep things interesting.
There are plenty of lovely guitar and synth textures, such as the shimmering shoegazery notes that shine forth high overhead on the aptly-titled “Sunset Rider,” as well as the glitchy little squiggles and little bursts of fuzz and noise that dance around the tracks’ edges like flecks of sunlight. However, Golden Sun’s rhythms are its most noticeable aspect. The beats are far more prevalent here than on those aforementioned Manual releases, possessing a distinctly hip-hop/downtempo influence.
Sometimes it all works — the exotic little flourishes on “Drifting” (which closes out the album’s first movement) are quite nice and relaxing — but oftentimes, the album just settles for the easy approach a little too much. On top of that, the hip-hop approach wears a little thin after awhile. The duo’s beats are about as basic and conventional as they come, and a few all-too familiar samples pop up here and there.
Of the three releases I’ve mentioned, I probably prefer The North Shore the most. While there exist some similarities between this album and that one, especially in terms of tone and vibe, The North Shore offers up a more interesting and diverse sonic vista than Golden Sun’s perpetually sun-drenched locale. That being said, Golden Sun does have some good things going for it. Then again, so would anything that attempts to conjure up warmer climes as I steel myself for another harsh Midwestern winter.