REVIEW Man/ipulate ‘Trance and Dance EP’ [OPIA Records]

Ultimately, a record label will demonstrate their excellence upon recounting their catalogue. While signing and pushing releases from in-demand artists is charming, delivering an assortment of styles is more up the alley. Down this multifarious road is where one would find London-based label OPIA Records. With an output that belongs somewhere in the so-called digger scene, the label is non-binary: it lies on the outskirts of bleep and within Progressive-Trance and Electro. Producers like Man/ipulate, Idris Bena, and Nemo Vachez all belong to a cohort of young French producers who are defining the sound of new underground House. Also known under the Welwert moniker, this nostalgic EP Trance and Dance for OPIA Records is Man/ipulate’s second outing, after a first EP Shinsei on Shin’uchū 深宇宙. 

The A1, Flight, is a skillful nod to the early 90s Progressive House sound with a tribalistic groove evoking a kind of state of Trance that is even more emphasized by embodying Didgeridoo sounds. So ultimately Flight can serve as both: a warm welcome to a party or heartfelt goodbye.

Is Not A Mind Trip, the EP’s second track, comes in a little bit darker and more trancey than the EP opener. With its modern twist, it reminds one of the early Bedrock productions and the times of John Digweed’s Northern Exposure and the Rabbit in the Moon staff. However, It’s Not A Mind Trip, apparently a musical oxymoron, culminates into a ravey something-for-your-mind passage before musically returning to its initially momentum and brings out the bass line for the next track – in one’s set or on the EP.

This next track on the EP is the B1, WWA, which musically and sound-wise goes into a similar direction like the A1 Flight but is way more of a tripped out, spacey and proggy tune, which is perfect for those late morning House terrace affairs as it has some slight break-influences and is topped with some mindful implemented vocals.

The second last track The Beat Club is a personal highlight of the EP – a groovy house corker made for warehouses and small dance floors, with some hints of Detroit and nostalgic vocals. The Beat Club is an outstanding blend of functional and emotional electronic music designed for those big moments with its deep chords, those short piano passages and the infectious vocal sample.

Lastly there is Primary, which fits in seamlessly with – in terms of its beat – The Beat Club. Its chilled breakbeat vibes with some hints of  early 90s Goa Hippie influences which one may have heard in music from bands like System 7 with their intriguing almost addictive melodies can definitely be heard in Man/ipulate’s last track of the EP and rounds off the fiver-tracker skillfully.

Overall, Trance and Dance shows the excellent production skills of the Frenchman Man/ipulate. Capturing early 90s music, but keeping a fresh momentum by not overindulging in its sounds is a talent not many have but Man/ipulate seems to have not only discovered but perfected for himself. So surely Trance and Dance won’t be the last outing of him referring to those sounds from the past but adding his own modern twist and perception of this musical period to it.

Man/ipulate’s Trance and Dance EP was released on OPIA Records on May 15th, 2022.

Words by Pasha Pliskin

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