Mikael Máni- Nostalgia Machine

Nostalgia Machine is the follow-up album to Bobby released back in 2018 (that album was reviewed for this blog, just click on the album title to take you to that review). Both albums can be found on the Smekkleysa record label, and both aim to capture the inspiration behind the music by creating linear stories with lyrical melodies and adventurous forms – Mikael Máni likes to describe his music as ‘Jarm’: a subtle blend of jazz, rock, and impressionism.

Some songs leave an imprint on the mind. When listened to, they affect a mechanism bring back memories kept in the music. A music time machine: The Nostalgia Machine.

Album liner notes

The album begins with the title track and is a very gentle introduction played in a reflective style. The use of clarinet and metallophone offsetting the minor distortion of the repeated phrases. Everything here is understated in that Scandinavian styling that many listeners of European jazz will be familiar with. ‘Trying to Stay Afloat’ continues where track one left off but there is brighter feel to the music with some nice crisp drumming from Magnύs Trygvason Elíassen and the ever-present clarinet of Sölvi Kolbeinsson who blends beautifully with the guitar of Mikael Máni.

Artwork by
Brynja Baldursdóttir

‘Let’s Start at the Beginning’ has a simple sounding guitar solo opening with the gorgeous tone of Lilja Maria Ásmundsdóttir’s metallophone filtering through, adding depth to the tune. It is the relative simplicity of this melody that hold the listeners attention. The break between tracks three and four act like a minor pause before the sentiment of three is first continued in four before developing in to something else.  This is where Máni’s idea of linear story telling comes to the fore and for me it works very well.

‘Ani’ has a harder, rockier edge to the playing but is softened slightly by the vocals of Marína Ósk Þórólfsdóttir. The tune builds in intensity before coming to a sudden end and the more reflective tonal quality is re-introduced through ‘I Want to Know Better’. ‘Almost There’ has a nostalgic feel about it and the interplay between Mikael Máni, Lilja Maria Ásmundsdóttir, and Sölvi Kolbeinsson is good example of three musicians each playing their part in constructing a mellifluous, complete sound.

‘My Day with Pierre’ again features wonderful clarinet and guitar playing. The drumming keeps the tune bubbling along while the bass of Ingibjörg Elsa Turchi fills out the sound. There is real ebb and flow to this tune full of nice touches that make it stand out. ‘Last Stop Before Final Destination’ returns us to the reflective mood of earlier tracks but there is a section that feels livelier before settling back again – like someone remembering something that they must tell before they forget and then getting back to the memory that started the conversation.

‘Be Still, Sinking Heart’ really does have that feel of recognition that these memories will one day fade away all together. For me this is, stylistically, the most contemporary classical sounding track on the album but without losing any of its jazz influences. ‘The Attic is the album’s final piece and has an uplifting lilting quality to it until it very gently fades out to its conclusion.

I enjoyed Mikael Máni’s first album Bobby. I have enjoyed Nostalgia Machine with the use of different instrumentation, the blending of musical styles and the linear approach to the album’s construction. I have taken pleasure in Mikael’s exploration of memory and wondered at how one person’s own remembrances set to music can trigger a different set of memories in a listener using that same piece of music: something to reflect on when listening to this fascinating album again.

Tracklist:

1. Nostalgia Machine. 2. Trying to Stay Afloat. 3. Let’s Start at the Beginning. 4. Two Sisters. 5. Ani 6. I Want to Know Better. 7. Almost There. 8. My Day with Pierre. 9. Last Stop Before Final Destination. 10. Be Still, Sinking Heart. 11. The Attic.

Musicians:

Mikael Máni – Guitar; Magnύs Trygvason Elíassen – drums; Lilja Maria Ásmundsdóttir – pinao, celeste, metallophone and electronics; Ingibjörg Elsa Turchi – electric bass; Sölvi Kolbeinsson clarinet and alto sax; Marína Ósk Þórólfsdóttir – vocals.Nostalgia Machine released 6th August, 2021

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