The follow up to ‘Armies of the Night’, an album on the edge of greatness found on Josh Wink’s Ovum label, NYC’s club b-boy Christopher Manik eats, sleeps and breathes house music and his hometown. Digging disco and deep house creeping up behind you with a splash of acid and the ‘80s, the darker club hues of his debut transition towards house purity on MANIK’s follow-up, with honey-dipped keys and sunset horns juxtaposing kicks causing bruises. After a tentative start, weaving through a hip-hop block party and slightly off kilter rhythm and dialogue, ‘Undergroundknowledge’ offers glamorous clubbing in the grittiest part of town.
‘That Hustle’ lays down a marker for the rest of the album, a classic ‘street house’ unification where a top hat-and-tailed pianist dukes it out with brusque hi-hats and blearily happy chords. ‘Metropolitan Ave’ and ‘People of Rhythm’ have got the strut and swing of someone ducking punch after punch while spending a long and heady night on the tiles down the Champs-Élysées. The jazz reaches optimum opulence on ‘5 Pointz’, a stunningly simple VIP track both predicting magic for the night ahead and happily reflecting on events taken uptown.
Though we do live in a world of shuffles and fast forward buttons, MANIK persists with edit-worthy fat carried over from ‘Armies of the Night’, namely interludes – nay, ad breaks – recognising the producer’s surroundings and heritage, and a conviction that the answer phone skit shouted out by his peers is still something a 93-minute album needs.
For all its delicious grooving, the album is open to necessary variation. With MANIK lowering his pedestal, ‘Devils Dance’ is no-nonsense acid that eventually smoothes itself out, and ‘Restart’ is no-nonsense acid that thinks about smoothing itself out, before deciding on working its 303 riff to the bone. ‘Gentrification’ is rather stiffer without the injection of standard flowing back and forth, but plays its part in avoiding hedonistic respite and shows the producer’s enhanced commitment to the dancefloor being the be all and end of all; and that’s knowledge you can take to the bank.
Words: Matt Oliver
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