Review: Manatee Commune – Brush

Manatee CommuneWe could use more artists like Manatee Commune in the Washington music scene.  An entirely one-person affair, Manatee Commune is the electronic music project of Bellingham producer and composer Grant Eadie, whom has been releasing music under this name for a few years now. After releasing a promising debut EP _ in 2012, Eadie came through in April of this year with Brush, an impressive debut full-length from such a young project.

The music on Brush takes a very lush, sweet and dreamlike approach to future beats music, which also seems to take inspiration from other styles including dream pop, ambient, and especially chillwave. Several tracks on this LP channel the spirit of artists ranging from Nosaj Thing to TOKiMONSTA to the Antlers to Tycho. Compared to any of those artists, however, Eadie conjures a sound and vibe that’s so pleasant and relaxing that it makes BathsCerulean sound like the Haxan Cloak’s Excavation. This all culminates into an album that’s 37 minutes of unadulterated audio tranquility.

Fans of the chillwave style of the early 2010s will feel at home when “White Smoke” gently opens the LP. Bright synths dominate the track, and all but take a front-seat to the slow kick drums and synthetic finger snaps. Fellow northwest musician Marina Price is brought on to do guest vocals, and her contributions are a welcomed addition. It’s one of the most accessible tracks on the album, which makes it the perfect opener, as it eases listeners in and prepares them for the more ambitious musical ideas to come later in the album.

As Brush unfolds, we’re exposed more and more to Eadie’s capabilities as a producer. A major defining characteristic of Manatee Commune is its immense amount of instrumental layering and very spacious sound-craft. Every track is laden with synthesizer, electric guitar, reverb, sampling, and all of these are driven by very subtle beats that are mixed in such a way that they don’t feel too demanding or commandeering. Brush maintains a very collected vibe of halcyon that it never lets up from, which could either be seen as a detriment or an advantage.

Like a lot of other albums that could be classified as chillwave, Manatee Commune’s debut LP does occasionally fall into a bit of repetition. The track “Lavender” sounds a lot like the title track, and the featured contributions from Vervex don’t really do anything to really make the track stand out on its own. Meanwhile, the closing track “Weather” just feels like a purely-ambient retread of “Cascade”, both containing very beautiful melodies and somewhat oceanic ambience that reminds me of something Will Wiesenfeld would create under the Geotic project. If you like your electronic music albums to dynamically change in mood and tone throughout, then Brush may not be for you.

However, I really enjoy what Manatee Commune has to offer on Brush, and I think it’s solid as both a whole album experience and when just listening to individual tracks, as there are several highlights on the record. “Epiphany, If Only” makes great use of Jon Hopkins-esque live drumming on various objects, as well as vintage-sounding electronic instrumentation that sells the track. “Lovely” is one of the more ambient pieces on Brush, using beats sparingly and instead swapping them out for what sound like field recordings. “Island” is my personal favourite song on the LP, a song that liberally throws electric guitar into the equation, and the song has an incredible amount of scope to it. When listened to with a good and loud speaker setup, it makes for an otherworldly listening experience.

If you’re an electronic music fan with a soft spot for its more tender and joyous side, I happily recommend Manatee Commune’s latest. It’s filled to the brim with feel-good, hypnotic and atmospheric electronic compositions, and the album definitely comes to us from a talented and meticulous artist, and their work really paid off. Some listeners may not able to get past the repetition of some tracks on the album, but those who can will find a set of 11 fun and memorable tracks that are sure to satisfy.

Your friend,
Jess Casebeer

(Brush is available for streaming below, and you can purchase the LP through Manatee Commune’s Bandcamp by following this link.)

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