Manchester Orchestra (photo by Mike Dempsey, PR)
A Black Mile To The Surface
Don’t be deceived by their name. Manchester Orchestra isn't a classical ensemble from England. They are an Atlanta rock quartet that emerged over a decade ago, building a passionate following with each album and EP.
A Black Mile To The Surface is the band's fifth album, a followup to their last studio album of original material, 2014's Cope (that album also had an acoustic companion, called Hope). On their latest release, Manchester Orchestra break away from any preconceived notions formed from their earlier efforts, like the harder-edged, punk-flavored Cope. Singer, songwriter and rhythm guitarist Andy Hull challenged his bandmates—lead guitarist Robert McDowell, bassist Andy Prince and drummer Tim Very—asking each musician to steer clear of playing what felt comfortable. Hull encouraged the band to intentionally push themselves away from familiar habits and disregard any comfort zone from prior albums. As he told Uproxx, Hull sought “intensity without volume."
As a result, A Black Mile To The Surface is a departure from the more aggressive sound of the group's earlier work. Songs were inspired by the band’s recent experience scoring the film, “Swiss Army Man,” which was released last year. (It starred Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe.) From that project, work commenced on A Black Mile To The Surface.
Less aggression didn't meanthe band shied away from dense arrangements. “The Moth” is an epic rock song with a rolling bass line while “Lead, SD” is tough and grandiose. Conversely, “The Sunshine” is a beautiful pop tune, emphasizing a soft, hazy melody and that bursts into the acoustic tune, “The Grocery.”
“The Wolf” and the sparse opening song, “The Maze,” are a couple of selections that rely on varying use of percussion, the former more pounding while the later utilizes a minimal style.
To create A Black Mile To The Surface, Manchester Orchestra relied on the help of Catherine Marks, John Congleton, Jonathan Wilson and longtime collaborator, Dan Hannon. The result of their efforts is an album revealing a band eager to make music that doesn't rely on past efforts. Manchester Orchestra want to challenge themselves and their fans. A Black Mile To The Surface is evidence of that change and progress.