[Album Review] Mauno - Tuning
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Release Date: October 13, 2017
Label: Idée Fixe/Tin Angel Records

Halifax experimental pop band Mauno come into their own on Tuning, an exceptional sophomore effort following their debut full-length Rough Master from 2015. Opening with “Or Just,” a patient slow burn subtly building layers of jagged post-punk inflected guitars, nimble bass and lively drums, introduces us to the album’s simple but powerful sonic formula. Mauno’s strengths lie in their melodic and structural qualities, as the group reaches energetic highs and smooth lows across the succinct half hour of music here.

For instance, the many rises and falls of “Hand” feature angular guitar arpeggios wrapping themselves around syncopated bass and drum patterns that ground the twisting melodies of Nick Everett’s throaty vocals. Distilling Mauno’s musical melting pot finds the best tracks stirring up a distinct blend of earnest pop-oriented hooks mixed with moments of both graceful yearning and aggressive catharsis. Dynamic shifts in volume and melody provide the boldest contrasts in the tracklist. “Anything Anymore” comes to mind with its two distinct halves fusing the gentle, soulful refrains led by bassist Eliza Niemi with a groovy, upbeat bridge.

Across Tuning, the production and arrangements work in tandem, finding vivid clarity in sparse, often barebones instrumentation that lends itself to the four-piece’s skillful performances on tracks such as, “Other Bad,” “Pigeon” and album highlight “How Long.” For Mauno, less is more. Short, interspersed interludes of found and natural sounds interrupt the flow that not only add a colourful spontaneity and character to the album, but also embody the theme of “still[ing] the noise in the mind,” which comes from R. Murray Schafer’s famous work World Soundscape Project, a major influence for Everett on this album in particular. Featuring church bells, running water and studio outtakes, these sketches become the noise for Mauno to still through punchy songwriting paired with sharp hooks and grooves.

Dissonant guitars match poppy hooks in a strong, focused outing from Mauno, as they craft a sound of their own and tune into their strengths as an exciting, eccentric Canadian talent.