Clint Mansell
Manchester Royal Northern College Of Music
Oct 2014
Live Review

This is just magical. Utterly magical.

With a swooping and soaring music that seduces the melancholic and soars with the euphoric Clint Mansell has been writing soundtracks by the score since Pop Will Eat Itself crumbled years ago. Discovered by Hollywood in his forties he is now the best soundtrack writer in the business with his distinctive and brilliant music that is the exact meeting point of post rock and soundtrack. That point where classical meets the new electricity of the soaring instrumental bands that have appeared post Slint.

Stepping out of his home studio and the endless cycle of writing music he has made this music soar live with a neo classical, neo gothic, neo soundtrack, neo post rock, neo – neo – neo one and half hours of perfection. This is unique as well- it’s not a solo show, Clint hardly pays anything but his music is everywhere translated by a crack team of kiler musicians. This is a crystalline music that is full of the joys of darkness and the addictive clouds of introspection and dark energy as the electricity and strings combine for a seductive symphony of emotional perfection.

And you know what- it was even better than that.

This stuff sounds great as a soundtrack – embedded into someone else’s visions, coaxing moods and subtly switching scenes and flavouring the celluloid purr of seductive Hollywood but take it out on its own and it stands up as some of the best music out there now.

For our money Mansell is up there with he dark romanticism of Nick Cave, the twisted soundscapes of the aforementioned Mogwai and Godspeed and other experimental soundscape gurus like Boards Of Canada. This has the desperate beauty of Joy Division and Martin Hannet’s futurist vision of that classic band who were so much part of the local fabric here in Manchester as well as the inventive brilliance of Einsturzende Neubauten and the hypnotic, sonorous drones of Sunn O))) and the current drone commandoes but played out with the power of classical strings instead of (mostly) the grind of electricity.

Of course Clint is far too humble to admit any of this and intersperses his swirling mood music with typically black country down to earth tales of being summoned to meet Madonna at her mansion and only realising when he went home home that he had a chip stuck to his pullover. It’s this clash of the heavy duty beauty of the music with his loveable down to earth nature that makes Clint so cool. It’s like the Dirty Three and their alternating tales of madness and instrumental music but with a very British self deprecating edge.

He jokes in-between songs when he was younger wearing leather pants and jumping round was ok but he is relieved to be making a music that makes sense at his age. He then play another brilliant two finger piano piece whilst all that stunning music that swills around his head is somehow translated into the fingers of the Sonus Quartet – four effortlessly stylish Amazonian woman whose exquisite playing defines tonight set.

He has also brought a band with him- big brooding drum, a dubby bass and some discordant guitar that hints back at his rock roots that these days is immersed deep into the post rock world- that world were a neo classical music of swooping and soaring moods is twisted into new shapes with a post rock post hardcore intelligence.

Somehow Clint is the equal of those new frontier musicians. His live show is stunning and the moods excuisite.

There is something great about the way Mansell has joined these experimental gods without anyone noticing. Of course everyone kinda knows he’s beeen doing that soundtrack stuff and some of the tunes are filtering into mass consciousness but because this is one of his rare tours no-one has connected that magnificent moody music that fills the big hall tonight with its creator.

A piece of music like Death Is The Road To Awe is gripping and powerfully moving, emotions are running high and this music is perfect for capturing all that swirling stuff as the ebbs and flows of the perfect arrangement and the dark matter at the heart of this music is lightning conducted by the gentle and melancholic soul of a black country genius whose modesty would blush at such a notion.

In the thirty plus years I’ve known him I’ve always felt the hints of greatness, even in those far flung days when his first band Wild And Wandering supported my band the Membranes at Stafford Poly in 1981 and we let them use the dressing room to hairspray their lank locks into shape, then there was those early days of the Poppies when he used to phone me before he did his post round and asked for advice whilst I was in the middle of the helter skelter disaster career with the nosienik Membranes.

Even behind the bluff and bravado of their leather kecked super yob period you could feel there was more to it than you were getting to hear and somehow his life has twisted into a place where it all come pouring out.

It took me two days to come down from this gig- its was that magical.

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