There is something deeply irresistible about the White Manna sound, actually plenty of things, but definitely there is a primal invitation to their psyche rock induced spatial adventures which makes band and releases pure contagion. The Californians’ previous acclaimed offerings bear witness to its potency, each offering a blistering infestation of ears and imagination cultured in pungent riffs and searing grooves, whilst the band’s live presence is renowned for stripping the senses blissfully bare. Now the quintet of David Johnson, Johnny Webb, Tavan Anderson, Anthony Taibi, and Michael Dieter unleash their finest moment yet in the fiercely simmering shape of Pan.
As fans of the Humboldt hailing band will expect, the heart of Pan is poached in celestial explorations and fuzz sprung psychedelic breaths driven by garage rock tenacity. It offers broad and deep, almost supernal soundscapes inspired by the Northern Californian landscape; guitarist Johnson saying about the band’s sound that “…the trees, beaches, and open spaces where we live are all integral parts of our approach to music.” This time though there is a stronger intimacy to the earth we tread and emotions felt through Pan, as reflected in the title, and a new almost predacious creative appetite and energy to tracks which are aligned to expected rhythmic virulence and psychedelic ferocity.
The album’s title track sparks ears and imagination first, a sonic piercing the trigger to a smog of fuzz fuelled riffery and atmospheric causticity. Almost straight away within the smothering embrace though, there is an infectious garage rock swagger which infects rhythms and the scuzz grooves seeping from the magnet tempest of sound. The result is a song which is a brewing cauldron of intensity and scolding sonic heat, never erupting fully but providing a seriously engaging and bracing scorching of flesh and psyche.
It is potent and stirring start quickly outshone by Dunes I and subsequently Dunes II. The first of the two similarly emerges from a sonic kiss on the senses, rapidly turning into a blaze of seventies psyche rock laced rampancy driven by a tenacious rhythmic seduction. The garage rock lustfulness of the White Manna sound is again a loudly piquant source of irresistible persuasion as it consumes ears and emotions, the song after its great start an inevitable enslavement matched and contrasted in sound by its successor. The second of the two is a slow saunter through air and emotions. Its body is a fusion of surf and psyche rock with a shoegaze like energy to its smouldering tempting, and uncontrollably enthralling. There is still a dirty tint to its atmosphere though, the band as always challenging as they seduce, stirring up things as they embrace with imagination and sound.
Yet another lofty plateau is breached with Evil. The track is a proto-punk bred treat, a catchy stomp of garage rock and scuzz pop strolling through ears like a mix of The Stooges and The Hives with a dash of The Sonics, but ripe with the uniqueness that is the White Manna sound. There is relentless drive and incessant urgency to the song as well as a great repetitious essence at its core which simply leaves you wanting more. The track is exceptional, pop rock alchemy and instantly matched by Beta Travelers. A spatial climate hints this song initially, it soon becoming the suggestive backdrop to a masterfully alluring shuffle of drum rhythms courted by choppy riffs. Everything intensifies with each circle of the rhythmic rallies though, evolving and enlarging into a melodically fuelled flame of enslaving enterprise, vocally and musically. That reiterative element of the music is once more pure addictiveness within the sonic boil up; every riff, hook, and rhythm inescapable temptation bound in grooves which flirt like a temptress within the song’s skin and psyche permeating scuzzy air.
Pan is brought to a close by Eshra, a twelve minute sonic painting of instrumental adventure and craft. Crashing waves within a lonely climate builds the scene, a canvas slowly defined and pushed by guitar and keys. Every passing minute adds a new descriptive layer and tempestuous intensity to the broadening terrain until by around halfway, the song is a fascinating swamp of sonic droning, fiery melodic exploration, and rhythmic hypnotism, all within another sultry surf seeded space rock coloured atmosphere. It is a riveting end to a thrilling encounter, and the perfect way to leave a lingering mark on the listener.
The impression Pan itself leaves is indelible, the album simply one of the most memorable and provocative encounters this year so far.
Pan is out now digitally and on CD, both versions including the equally impressing bonus tracks Slow Dust and Master Of The Universe (Live), and on vinyl. All options are available through Cardinal Fuzz in Europe @ https://cful.bandcamp.com/album/white-manna-pan and Captcha Records Stateside via https://captcharecords.bandcamp.com/album/pan