• Isbjorn reviewed in Sound On Sound

    13 Nov 2008, 16:38

    The Mank album Isbjorn was reviewed in Sound On Sound magazine this month, it looks like this -

    Sometimes you know precisely what a CD is going to sound like before you hear a note. Since it's described by its creator as ambient electronica, adorned with polar bears and inspired by a trip to the Arctic Circle, there's no way Isbjorn was ever going to be a psychobilly record. Nevertheless, its capacity for sounding exactly like you'd expect it to sound is still pretty remarkable.
    The immeasurable vastness of the icy wastes is, exactly as you'd expect, brought to life through the medium of high notes on the piano. Wind noise, crystalline pads and sinister rumblings also feature heavily, exactly as you'd expect. And, exactly as you'd expect, it goes on forever. Surprises are infrequent, the main one being that the 29-minute closing track is actually the best thing here. Leaving behind the more clichéd musical elements on offer elsewhere, it focuses on a single, truly epic sinister rumbling, developing at an appropriately glacial pace. Sam Inglis

    Isn't it strange how different people like different things, when reviewed Isbjorn a few months back they hated the last track.

    ".....a negative point is the final track, and this is the worst one for sure. This truly harms my opinion on Isbjorn overall. After enjoying the previous ten-plus short and sweet songs, the album’s closer, "Iad Uroboros," is a 29 minute-long disappointment. Filled with nothing more than ambient noise,it fails to leave any impression on me, showing no sign of the talent Mank’s had previously displayed in the tracks beforehand."

    what can you do?
    I guess its a good job I'm making this music for me and not for media approval.

    I like it, I'm never 100% happy with anything but I think that's just me, if I gave in to those feelings I'd never get anything finished so I release things when I think I can add no more.

    anyhow, I'm back from the north pole now, that was an experience, in october 2008 there was a lot more ice than september 2007, and it was a lot colder, -25 deg C to be exact. I managed to mix down a 21 min ep of new mank stuff which I'm currently in negotiations with rich from about releasing, hopefully it should see the light of day soon. I also wrote quite a bit of new music which I probably won't let off my hard drive for another 12 months or so, patience, when I'm happy with it.

    Hey, I've been in Sound On Sound, the inner geek in me is very proud no matter what they said :-)
  • Parking Non-Stop / Mank / Black Balloons / Peal Necklace gig review

    24 Sep 2008, 9:03

    Fri 12 Sep – Parking Non Stop album launch party

    The Mank gig on 12 sept 2008 received a review in The Fly magazine -

    I'd been looking forward to seeing this gig for some time - PNS's local live appearances are rarer than a house in Bangor that isn't full of students and support from Mank, Black Balloons and the inimitable Pearl Necklace promised a mouth-watering evening's entertainment. The crowd and I were destined to go home sated with both kunst and entertainment.

    Pearl Necklace
    This is a band which defies description - taking the concept of to a whole new level of consciousness they never cease to entertain their loyal local (literally) fanbase. As with all pub duos Pearl Necklace only perform cover versions and they do it with, at times, hilarious originality, utilizing backing tracks programmed on a Playstation along with live guitar, keyboards and, of course, vocals. With a repertoire of over 140 songs the variety of their live performances never ceases to amaze and amuse - the last time I saw them live they managed, in quick fire succession, to perform (per)versions of Eric Clapton's Wondeful Tonight, Shanks and Bigfoot's Sweet Like Chocolate and Throbbing Gristle's Something Came Over Me and I still find myself chuckling for no apparent reason everytime I look back at that night.

    Tonight's performance, however, was something quite special and also, in a way, quite touching. Anticipating that some of the musicians in question would be present tonight, they'd worked their socks off for 2 weeks prior to the gig without anyone's knowledge preparing a totally new set that was made up entirely of cover versions of songs written by some of the classic local bands of the last 25 years - The Casio Kid, The Lungs, CUT TUNES, Stephen Davies and The Ominous Dr Clip Clop to name a few. Their interpretation of the material was excellent and revealed, behind the tongue-in-cheekness of it all, a deep affection for the bands and artists that have made the Bangor and surrounding area music scene such a special place for the last quarter century.

    There's more chance of Pearl Necklace successfully invading a small Caribbean island nation than ever getting on the front page of The Fly but their fans couldn't give a toss about that and they showed their appreciation at the end of the set with a lenghty ovation.

    Black Balloons
    Taking music to a totally different place than the one inhabited by Pearl Necklace, one-man band Black Balloons delivered a lengthy 3-song set which varied in quality. Utilizing a loop FX pedal for the first song, Mr Balloons built up a powerful and, at times, spine-tingling drone using harmonies of his own voice and a recorder. As the layers built up he switched between a detuned guitar, bashing a tom tom, bashing the guitar with a drum stick and on top of this sang in a style reminiscent of a cat being strangled. The effect was , powerful and startling in places and reminded me of a bastard Popol Vuh - if Werner Herzog had been in the audience I'm sure he'd have considered Black Balloons to do the music for his next film.

    The second song, for me, didn't work - a rambling, , detuned guitar drone which lost it's way on several occasions and failed to live up to the expectations of the opening song. If he'd used the loop fx and some delay/reverb it could of been another story. The final song returned to the themes created in the opener and was another chaotic hypnotic barnstormer. I'd like to see Black Balloons get into the studio with a sympathetic producer - I think the end result would be quite exciting.

    Mank, AKA Ben Powell, has been providing the Welsh music scene with superlative / music for the last 10 years. His numerous albums - released on his own Mankymusic label - have entranced Welsh music fans and gained critical acclaim from BBC Radio Wales and Radio 1. A technician in Bangor University, his work has seen him regularly visiting the Circle over the last 12 months or so and in fact he programmed the whole of his last album on a laptop on board a Russian polar research ship up there. This has led to his music developing a colder and more spacious feel and this was demonstrated perfectly with tonight's performance. Armed with his laptop and switching between lead and bass guitars and playing in front of one of his video projections he produced a polished performance which alternated between the , and and achingly . I feel it's only a matter of time before Ben Powell gets his face on a Welsh £1 coin.

    Parking Non-stop
    And on to the meat and two veg of tonight's show. This was an event to debut PNS's wonderful new album Species Corridor which has been released on Faust's Klangbad label. Their performance started as it meant to carry on with vocalist Zoe creating a delicious drone by rubbing the top of a glass of wine, sampling it into a loop fx pedal, sipping some of it to change the key, sampling that and then repeating the process - it's what Quentin Crisp would have regarded as pure style. And from then on it just got better and better. As expected, the band performed the new album and any fears that I had about them being able to reproduce it live without an overkill of backing tracks due to the volume of field recordings on it soon dissipated.

    The performance took the audience on a musical journey around Europe - guitar blended with cheesy Parisian organ and Tatu-style Euro synths layered over and rhythms generated from - the perfect backdrop for Zoe's ethereal voice. The end result is totally innovative, but surprisingly accessible - and if that wasn't enough the band performed in front of a video backdrop of goats walking backwards on a courtyard in Laibach's home town of Trbovlje.

    Over the years this trio of artists have learnt how to captivate an audience live to such perfection that it's become as effortless as breathing. Having been involved in many acclaimed projects in the past as individuals, with Parking Non-Stop Alan, Dewi and Zoe have blended their collective skills together perfectly and continue to challenge, create, inspire and set a benchmark for every other Welsh band to try and reach - tonight's performance showed why.
  • BBC Radio 3 airplay

    17 Abr 2008, 17:00

    The Mank track Cryoseism (from the album Isbjorn) was played on BBC radio 3 on "the late junction" show last night (16-4-08). The track was played quite late at night, other artist featured on the show included The Kronos Quartet, AGF and Essie Jain
  • Isbjorn on "We are not journalists"

    8 Abr 2008, 15:17

    08-04-08 - Isbjorn has been put at number 6 in the "Best of March 2008" list on We Are Not Journalists webpage, sat between Boris and Mike Patton!

    Review from the webpage

    Utterly brilliant cosmic ambient electronic music, Mank ( a project by Ben Powell) is music that is rewarding on an emotional level that is in the vein of the minimalism of Satie or Reich as well as the of Aphex Twin. The release of Mank’s music is to be equally commended — self releasing HIS ENTIRE DISCOGRAPHY on his site for as much or as little as you want. This effort needs to be supported in a big way.

    cheers guys!
  • mank interviewed about isbjorn

    8 Feb 2008, 16:31

    Interview by Bangor University Press Department.

    Uni : I have been given a tip-off that you composed music during your recent trip, can you tell me more??? What sort of music is it?
    Ben : I would describe it as music, it is and 100% computer based. There are some real instruments (piano, drums, strings) but these are all sampled (recordings on my hard drive).

    Uni : What are your influences?
    Ben : I would say my main influences are nature and maths, I love to go walking in the mountains away from the crowds, I find that the inspires me. I also love to use maths as a composition tool, as the music is computer based it is very easy to integrate patterns and numbers into the composition, in the past I have used fractals and tidal data from the Menai Sraits as the basis for my music. My musical influences would be artists like Philip Glass, Biosphere, Harold Budd, Steve Reich, Brian Eno and Boards of Canada.

    Uni : Was this music different to your usual style? influenced by the environment you found yourself in?
    Ben : My music usually has more beats, some if the tracks on this, my 8th album, are "typical mank" tracks, but I think the bleakness of the environment is reflected as well. The majority of this material was recorded whilst I was on board the ship - there was always the of the engines, the sound of the waves splashing against the bow, the shudder of the hull as we ploughed through ice sheets - environmental noises which I think have filtered through. Being on the ship also limited the equipment I had access to, I usually have a MIDI (musical) keyboard attached to a computer running through a set of speakers, on this trip I was armed only with a laptop and a pair of headphones. I used the laptops "qwerty" keyboard as a virtual musical keyboard to compose, because of this the melodies are simpler resulting in the tracks being more atmospheric and drone based; its not the notes, its the sounds between the notes that count. As the work was all done through headphones the album has a very insular sound, I think it would be a great listen on an ipod for a train journey.

    Uni : How long have you been composing/ playing?
    Ben : I have played the guitar since I was 13 and started making electronic music under the name "Mank" about 10 years ago.

    Uni : Is the music available anywhere ( MySpace etc) for people to listen to?
    Ben : I have my own webpage where you can hear / download my music for free I have been releasing my music this way since about 2000, I'm happy just to let people hear my work. I have made this album available for a donation (an idea I borrowed from the band "Radiohead") - you can go to my webpage and pay as much or as little as you like for an instant download of the album. I'm not in it for profit but if I can recover the cost of getting the cd's made I'll more than happy. Its very much a cottage industry approach compared to the hustle and bustle of being signed to a major music label, and since there are no commercial pressures it leaves me with complete creative freedom. I also have a myspace

    Uni :What's your day job- when not in the Arctic?
    Ben : I am an electronics technician at the School Of Ocean Sciences, my main role being the maintenance and deployment of oceanographic scientific instruments which involves a lot of work on boats of various sizes from kayaks on rivers to icebreakers at the north pole. I spend a lot of time on board the university's RV Prince Madog and always make sure I have my laptop with me to make music in any spare time, I think that spending so much time on boats has been a major influence on my music.

    Uni : Musical/ Composing aspirations?
    Ben : I think my musical ambition would be to make soundtracks for tv / movies.
  • mankymusic webpage

    6 Feb 2008, 10:58

  • Mank - Isbjorn Liner Notes

    18 Ene 2008, 16:11

    In September / October 2007 I went to the Arctic Ocean to collect oceanographic data. Five weeks on board a Russian icebreaker, at 82 deg north the time zones slipped by quickly, day and night were soon forgotten, the sun would set and rise quite randomly. Optical phenomena like the Aurora Borealis and icebow's, Seals and Polar Bears watching us curiously, the unsettling sound of the ships hull shuddering as we ploughed through ice sheets.
    A different world within our own.
    The majority of this album was created during this journey.

    the album is available to hear and instant download from

    Copyright 2008 mankymusic
    Everything by Ben Powell