Mano Le Tough Trails Permanent Vacation
Niall Mannion has spoken about the precarious stage in which he, like many musicians, found himself during his early career. The Irish house producer has risen up the ranks of international DJs in the past few years with a style that favours rich, melodic sensibility. It’s unfortunate that somewhere along this transition, this series of choices and corridors, he has made an album of clean-cut melodic house, let down by facile lyrics.
Take title track Trails. Mannion sings “And I ask you are you my friend, or my lover until the end?” These lines are repeated several times. Is Mannion role-playing a Fedora-doffing, friend-zoned Nice Guy who’s finally had enough, demanding to know of his love interest whether their relationship is platonic or sexual? Weird too is The Space Between. The lyrics refer to the distance between himself and another, then list
other supposed opposites, while the music builds with a shimmering discordance that ratchets to violent crescendo, the apparently irreconcilable space between them “closing in”. It seems to point to a messy break-up, the schlock-horror instrumentation suggesting some kind of grisly conclusion. It’s unsettling in a way beyond that which Mannion intended. He is on safer ground on the instrumentals, such as I See Myself In You, a moody mid tempo house track, or Sometimes Lost, which could be described very similarly.
Mannion likes to describe his music as ‘Folkal House’. The music is very clean, quantised and compressed. This might make it marketable to the mainstream, but it leaves Trails feeling sterilised. It is funk-less. His talent for producing brooding and emotive music is clear, but his lyrics need work. They’re emblematic of the kind of vacuous pseudo-intellectualism that passes for profundity in (allegedly) ‘underground’ house. Taken together with the undertones of bruised male entitlement, and the average arrangements, this album is a missed opportunity.