Mikael Máni
Guitar Poetry

VÖ: 28.03.2024

Genre: Junge Talente, Saiteninstrumente, Neu bei ACT



ACT 9984-2, 614427998422
Mikael Máni Ásmundsson/ guitar
produced by Mikael Máni Ásmundsson
the art in music: cover "untitled" by Guðjón Ketilsson

"I love the music of Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan," says Icelandic guitarist Mikael Máni. "I think that's the main reason why I often write songs for the guitar that could just as easily be sung." Those words bring us to the core of what "Guitar Poetry", Máni’s debut release on ACT, is all about. This album introduces an instrumentalist who brings passion and expertise not just to his refined and subtle compositions but also to his vivid and fluent improvisation, and who combines all this with a highly skilled singer-songwriter’s clarity and directness. His multilayered music functions well, and on many levels. Mikáel Mani calls it a mixture of jazz, rock and impressionism. Yet he never loses the idea of being both accessible and sophisticated. He doesn’t just stimulate listeners intellectually, he also knows how to cut straight through to the emotions.

From the very first song of "Guitar Poetry", "She'll Arrive Between 10 & 11", Mani gives a pointer to the expressive range which listeners can expect throughout the album. The guitarist makes a strong initial impression with the warmth of his acoustic sound: fine, brilliant, spacious. From this, a simple folkloristic melody emerges, a few sparse harmonies - a musical idyll. And then, in the middle of the song, everything turns into noise, becomes gloomy, threatening, almost despairing... and finally finds reconciliation by returning to the calm of the original theme.

Mikael Máni’s mastery of presenting contrasts and of springing musical surprises is exceptional for one so young. And he is also a guitarist with his very own signature style, one which does not lend itself to categorisation within the usual spectrum of the instrument in jazz. His jazz leanings are more evident in his approach to playing than in any obvious affiliation with the genre or the canon. In fact, folk-derived techniques such as finger-picking, or echoes of the blues, Americana and Nordic songs and a unique, cinematic quality are more in evidence. But perhaps most importantly, whereas Máni plays purely instrumentally, his music - always and unmistakably - sings.

Here is an artist for whom the shallowness of competitive virtuosity or instrumental vanity are completely alien. Mikael Máni lets his music flow and creates intensity, sometimes through calm and relaxation, sometimes through energy and small outbursts that can explode briefly from any tonality into noise, only to either find their way back or discover completely new ways out. And sometimes you imagine that there must surely be two or more guitarists playing, such is his skill in creating parallel layers of sound. But, with the exception of two numbers recorded in multi-track, it is always and only Mikael solo: he has the talent to play harmonies, melodies and fragments that then live on and grow in the listener's mind as essential parts of the fascinating tapestry which he weaves.

The concept of story-telling in music may have been desperately over-worked and become a cliché, but that, quite simply, is what Máni does: all the songs on "Guitar Poetry" tell stories, open up spaces and land-scapes, draw pictures. And they are the reflection of a guitarist who is as unconventional as he is musically approachable, an extroverted introvert whose whole way of being is to assert the primacy of expression and emotion.