Boomkat Product Review:
Italian DJ and producer José Manuel explores the potential of the Tammorra, a traditional Campanian drum, on his second solo album. The result is hypnotizing set of pagan folk ritual electronics - unique stuff.
Not to be confused with a basic tamborine, the Tammorra is made from a circle of wood and skinned with goat or sheepskin. In the Italian Campania region it was used during rituals and ceremonies; by using the drum, it supposedly channeled magic through the mind and body, assisting dancers with uncontrolled movement. Using this instrument as the root of the album, Manuel looked to folk tales from Naples that told of the Janara, a type of witch, to flesh out his concept.
He asked friends from Southern Italy, where the legends emerged, to pen lyrics, and asked others to voice them on the record. So "Janara" represents a collaboration between Manuel and Southern Italy, in a way, as he explores history, bringing these ideas into the present. The productions are electronic, but never dip into anything that might resemble mainstream techno. Rather Manuel uses electronic elements to serve as a backdrop for windswept forest folk and witchy vocal ambience.
The album works best when its elements coalesce into a sound that defies categorization. 'Terror' sounds like the "Midsommar" soundtrack that never was, with rolling percussion from the Tammorra and chiming string loops, accompanied by a vocal that sounds half pop and half naked pagan ritual. 'Cumana Sibilla' is almost vintage electro pop, but is so spooky (that DRUM) that it sounds more "Rosemary's Baby" than Visage. If this had been released in the mid-1970s, it'd have been reissued on Finders Keepers by now.