Manitoba is the nom de guerre
adopted by Ontario-dwelling mathematician and self-confessed crap-equipment-user Dan Snaith. As Manitoba, Snaith has created one of the most essential "electronica" -- can something that contains a fair whack of live-recorded instruments accurately be called electronica? -- discs to pass the ears in a long while. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably better. And
it's expanded -- this US release of this album contains three bonus tracks, including a remix of "Dundas, Ontario", and the not-so-childishly-named "Tits And Ass: The Great Canadian Weekend", previously available on the Give'r
Opener "Dundas, Ontario" begins with a meditative line, against which beats a small, skittish beat that sounds like the movements of a big moth against a window, beating at the light. There's already a sense of homeliness, of welcome -- it's a rare tune that can make you feel that within a couple of seconds.
"People Eating Fruit" pits more insect-like sounds against some lovely unsampled percussion before leading into a brief do-re-mi choral interlude that repeats, off and on, throughout the track. There's a real sense of peachskin here -- a feeling of subtle give, of juiciness. It's quite amazing, inasmuch as this track sounds like people consuming fruit -- just not in a literal, Matmos kind of way. This calm feeling, shot through with wonder, nourishes most of the album in a most appealing way.
"Mammals Vs Reptiles" starts with a jackrabbit drumbeat before segueing into a sort of free-jazz-tribute-cum-skipped-record-freakout, replete with brass section football tackles. It's hectic and fun; it's cheesy to suggest that this is the sound of youthful exuberance, but, well, it is. You'll notice similarities to other artists as you listen to Start Breaking My Heart, but none of them seem to be particularly slavish. Boards Of Canada come to mind first, along with the similarly-summery Four Tet, which is probably not surprising, given that this outing appears on Fridge/Four Tet mainman Kieran Hebden's Leaf label. There are shades of Brian Eno's restive wash approach, and echoes of Aphex Twin's more delightful moments, as well as a reasonable swish at some of Orbital's less hectic moments. In the end, though, the album rises above any borrowing or namechecking one can imagine.
Start Breaking My Heart is a small-town affair. It's the smile on a small child, the rainbow after the storm. There are touches of darkness here, but the album's core is human, alive and happy. It's achingly beautiful without relying on maudlin sentimentality to win the listener over. Genius.