Anders Manga is a true darkwave lifer. For more than two decades he’s been releasing independent albums that show his dedication to dark synth music, albeit shot through with some of the rock sensibility that informs his other projects like Blood Hammers. New album Andromeda is testament to his skillset as a producer and writer, showing off his knack for hooks and his assurance in his own personality as a performer.
Weirdly one of the best comparisons I can come up with for the feel if not the specifics of Andromeda is Daniel Belasco’s work in Glass Apple Bonzai. While the latter acts operates is lighter synthpop climes, there’s a kinship in the ease with which Manga can croon a hook and program a nice rich arrangement of synths. Listen to the way he eases his way into the groovy electro beat of “Rosaries and Requiems”, coming in to the simple arrangement of drums bass synth, slowly lifting the track up to the chorus with the way he ramps up his delivery. Or how charming ballad “Atomic Sky” introduces some strummed guitar to the arrangement of gentle keys, allowing him to summon some gentle and summery tones appropriate to the song.
Manga’s choices in delivery show confidence, and perhaps even more importantly comfort in his chosen milieu. When he goes more upbeat on “Night of the Witch” it works because he sounds totally at ease delivering some arch-goth vocals as drum machines and descending keys provide an appropriately dramatic backdrop. Which is not to say Anders is laidback, just that he knows where and when to let his arrangements and vocals ride and when to kick them up a notch: that’s how “Serpentine” can work a sweet and slightly campy groove but never seem too over the top or underdelivered.
The real pleasure of Andromeda lies in how Manga can make music that sounds authentic to himself and his now considerable catalogue even for the uninitiated. Having never spent much time with his work previous to this, I was taken by how easily I understood who he was and what he was trying to convey as a darkwave artist. That kind of intangible is hard to pin down, but Anders Manga shows an expertise that makes his work graspable and enjoyable from the jump.