Mauno – ‘Rough Master’

Review by J.M. Farr

Mauno’s new album, Rough Master, deals with the duller moments in life. Moving, driving—day-to-day drudgery. Boredom screws with our sense of time; it seems interminable. Mauno extrapolates from this timelessness and distils it into potent and shapely songs.

To my ears, the music takes many cues from Toronto’s Sandro Perri, which is certainly fertile ground for inspiration. It’s a little less groovy though—more deliberate, as though the improvisational current that runs so strongly through Impossible Spaces had been deterred and replaced with…something else.

The press release thingy I received about Rough Master alludes to frontman Nick Everett being a fan of choral music, which makes sense given the album’s emphasis on vocal melody and harmony. I can say for sure that Mauno loves good melodies. Aside from a few tracks, the songs mostly coalesce around Everett’s voice, which floats above the main instrumental core of trebly telecaster, melodic bass lines, and drums.

There are also a couple of purely instrumental tracks—“Manitoba” and “Pulses”. Both the instrumentals are studio pieces, built through overdubbing and a lot of sonic manipulation. Neither overstay their welcome, and they were probably a ton of fun to make.

“Pulses” is an experiment in Steve Reich-like phase music. It’s kind of at odds with the rest of the album, given its completely different compositional approach. Mauno deftly evades this potentially jarring contrast by using “Pulses” to end the album and also making it the shortest track on the album. It turns out to be a good move, giving the listener a reflective conclusion to a most satisfying listening experience.

Pop about boredom. What a pleasing irony.