Review: LAWA ‘Manipulation’

LAWA; the acronym of Alain Leonard and Alex Wank respectively, started collaborating around the mid-2010s. Manipulation, their third and latest release, following up from 2015s Omaggio A Riz Ortolani and 2020s The Parallax View. Most would more than likely recognize Wank via his work as the drummer for Pungent Stench, a name I had heard of but not really being a death metal guy, ever really bothered investigating further.

LAWA (Alain Leonard & Alex Wank) 'Manipulation'

If you have been following The Shaman in recent weeks (and I sincerely hope you have), you’ll doubtlessly have spotted the video premiere for the tracks Konstrukt and Yaogoai, which would have given you an idea as to what to expect musically. Manipulation will see the light of day in October and sister album Instrumentalisation in January 2023, additionally, both albums will also be released on one compact disc with different artwork. Speaking of which, stylistically the art-deco of Manipulation‘s cover (by Thomas Zackl) bares a similarity to that of Saul Bass and his designs for Anatomy of a Murder and Vertigo, rendering the album a cinematic quality.

In Case Off opens the album with awesomely hard-hitting Industrial beats, but ones that are decidedly catchier than those offered by the likes of Frontline Assembly, thereby making the track a good deal more engaging and accessible. Devils, with its slower pace, is reminiscent of Autechre’s excellent glitchy techno, albeit a little less obtuse. The nightmare scenario of a nuclear holocaust is amplified by the grimly yet appropriately titled Grave, sonically resembling the fallout winds as well as the sense of panic and disorder that ensue during such an event. Terrifyingly effective.

Griff is akin to machines attempting to sputter back to life after the events of the previous track but still being pursued mercilessly by the aforementioned winds of doom, this is hardly your average happy hardcore that is found in nightclubs. Winters is cold and foreboding with a gothic feel, taking you down a Nine Inch Nails and latter period Gary Numan route. One could easily envisage Trent Reznor or Numan’s vocals accompanying it, meanwhile, Inhumation is forbidding like a Lovecraftian nightmare, an unseen threat which always lingers.

a superb soundtrack to the apocalypse…

Dark Walker is a different proposition, groovier with a synth-pop vibe that is straight out of any number of 1980s flicks. Squelettes, if my research has proven accurate, is French for skeleton and rather fantastically recalls Tangerine Dream’s work on the Sorcerer and Thief soundtracks and perhaps shades of Jean Michel Jarre. Visions is a short interlude styled piece with creepy atmospherics and a futuristic dystopian theme that wouldn’t be out of place on a Nicolas Winding Refn movie and once again taps into late ‘90s Nine Inch Nails.

Injection takes you on an interesting musical journey, starting at a trudging pace not too dissimilar to the tracks found on the infamous B-side of Black Flag’s My War, but picks up the pace later on without ever losing that omnipresent oppressive feeling. Sakkad recalls the Refn vibes of Visions and leads onto the remaining duo of Konstrukt and Yaogoai (Chinese for monsters). The former is a grandiose piece which is epic in scope, while the latter has an oriental tinge that on the surface appears serene but is anything but. Both tracks help draw the album to a suitably downbeat conclusion.

The back cover of Manipulation reads ‘absolute no guitars on this album’, which comes across like a clever inversion of the proud claims of Queen’s 1970s albums to the use of no synthesizers. This makes it a snub to rock conformity as well as a superb soundtrack to the apocalypse.

Label: Cineploit Recordings
Band Links: Facebook | Instagram

Scribed by: Reza Mills