Review: MANIK – Undergroundknowledge

MANIK_Undergroundknowledge

The narrative of MANIK’s sophomore album for Josh Wink’s Ovum Recordings tells the story of his coming of age in NYC. It’s a throwback to an era when house music was percolating in the underground below the mainstream’s radar.

MANIK, who is now based in L.A., forges ’90s-tinged deep-house tracks with authority: “Lefrak City” (the name of an apartment complex in Elmhurst located near where he grew up) shines with sweeping pads, clacking percussion and a soulful female vocal sample; “People Of Rhythm” is aligned with the famed Wild Pitch sound; and “Restart” is emblematic of the era’s techier house productions. Close your eyes and you can hear these tracks sauntering into Tony Humphries’ late-night ’90s KISS-FM Mastermix Dance Party.

MANIK peels away layers and goes deeper, revealing furtive acidic romps (“Devils Dance,” “Restart”) that channel the essence of The Todd Terry Project. Greg Paulus of No Regular Play makes a wonderful cameo on the meditative “5 Pointz,” where he contributes his trumpet mastery.

“APT 3D1” is the only throwaway track; it’s a pastiche of samples culled from movies and sports he watched as a kid growing up in Kew Gardens. You had to be there to appreciate its context.

“PS99” is an interlude featuring shout-outs from Eli Goldstein from Soul Clap, Doc Martin and Option4 and a fake message from “the mayor’s office of New York” reminding him to “Stay original. Stay true to the game. And do not worry about anything anyone else says. Take your first, stick your middle finder up in the air and wave it like you just don’t care.” It doesn’t can’t get more New York than that!

A personal reflection of his roots, Undergroundknowledge eschews nostalgia and sentimentality in favor of celebrating a childhood spent in the greatest melting pot in the world. As any New Yorker will tell you, nothing is stronger than writing about what you know.

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