Manzana Carnal – Perfectly Flawed (and other lies)

Manzana Carnal : Perfectly Flawed (and other lies)

Utilising a near bewildering array of influences and producing a seamless musical result isn’t always so easy, but Manzana Carnal are definitely making it sound that way. The New York quintet are combining freeform jazz improv, electronica, full-on punk energy and an elusive otherness is what these particular results are. Recorded live, Perfectly Flawed has a chaotic energy and a electro soul vibe at its heart that isn’t like anything I’ve heard since Nouvelle Vague reconfigured both the Buzzcocks back catalogue, and Depeche Mode’s hard drive.

A gently tingling minute or so of Indonesian percussion starts things off, but anyone expecting to hear a poppy collection of far eastern melodies is in for a shock. “No No No” is a vitriolic blast of yelped vocal and powerhouse drumming that, just when it seems Manzana Carnal are finally settling on a song structure, is suddenly torn asunder by a swathe of guitar pyrotechnics. “Serena” quickly calms the situation, a bluesy torch ballad verging on the brink of neurosis, and then “Hey” has the sound of the band properly getting into their stride, part grinding blues rock, part reverberating jazz rhythm patterns, and a stop-start dynamic that’s almost digital in its brisk contempt for convention. Over the 11 tracks on Perfectly Flawed, Manzana Carnal continually push the boundaries of what are still our preconceptions of how rock, jazz and blues should sound, skilfully pulling it back from outright deconstruction just when you think they’re going to collapse entirely into freeform indulgence.

So, Manzana Carnal are re-breaking the rules that John Zorn, James Chance and Lydia Lunch tore up back in the day, and bringing their own brand of dissonant improv and reflective minimalism to traditional song structures and themes. The live recording provides their sound with an added impetus and some of the musicianship is of a near spectacular standard. There are few flaws and quite some moments of perfection on Perfectly Flawed.