Blank Manuskript -
A Live Document

(CD 2023, 77:50, Independent)

The tracks:
  1- Foetus(2:26)
  2- Public Enemy(5:39)
  3- The Cult Of Birdman(16:30)
  4- Twilight Peak(12:06)
  5- After The War Part I(2:10)
  6- After The War Part II(8:11)
  7- The Last Journey(5:06)
  8- Silent Departure(4:08)
  9- Shared Isolation(11:53)
10- Alone At The Institution(9:41)

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Sometimes it's impossible to fully assess or appreciate an album after one, two, possibly three hearings when it brims with virtuosity and enchantment. One such example is Austrian Blank Manuskript's A Live Document recorded in 2022 at Night of the Prog at Loreley, Woodstock Forever in both Germany, and ARGEkultur in Salzburg.

The production of this album is seamless and crystal clear, beautifully capturing the complexity and artistry of the band's extraordinary music. Although there is very much a symphonic, almost chamber music feel to their compositions, there are junctures where they conjure up the spirit of Gentle Giant or Van Der Graaf Generator.
Expressive and heart-felt, the brief Foetus starts with an extended chord, muted voice and gentle acoustic guitar, and ends with the line “Mother, where are you?”
Public Enemy is more of a rockier proposition, Alfons Wohlmuth's plaintive flute cutting through, evoking thoughts of Focus especially when Dominik Wallner's harpsichord-like electric piano comes in with the guitar.
The tour de force is The Cult Of The Birdman, the longest track that brings together some irresistible instrumental combinations such as piano with recorder, a jazzy saxophone passage courtesy of Jakob Widerin, extended guitar solo and some crazy piano.
There's a bluesier Pink Floyd kind of feeling to Twilight Peak, some spoken lyrics declaring “One, one, one finds another and the circle of life begins.” A stunning sax solo earns some well-deserved applause and a beautiful classical piano solo extends the magic.
The shorter After The War Pt 1 has a stately vibe to it, flute and guitar to the fore. After The War Pt 2 harbours an underlying anger below soaring guitar, saxophone and a lovely gentle string effect.
A spoken section and heavy riffing distinguish The Last Journey but Silent Departure is jaw dropping, mournful and beautiful, its accordion-sounding keyboards tugging at the heartstrings.
The trippy keyboards and a fuzzier guitar on Shared Isolation take the band in another direction while Alone at the Institution oozes soul and contains a stunning jazz section.
This is panoramic music, that demands close attention and delivers so many shades of prog and art rock.

Blank Manuskript will be playing five dates in the UK in November. This album provides the perfect taster for the joys that lie ahead.

***** Alison Reijman

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