Wed Oct. 2, 2024

Manu Delago 
feat. Mad About Lemon 'Snow from Yesterday Tour' (A)

Manu Delago: handpans, percussion & fx
Clemens Rofner: bass, synthesizer
Mad About Lemon
Anna Widauer: vocals, colours
Mimi Schmid: vocals, colours
Valerie Costa: vocals, colours

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Manu Delago will release his new album ‘Snow From Yesterday’ on February 2nd through One Little Independent Records. The Austrian composer, innovator, Grammy nominee and acclaimed percussionist has teamed up with vocal ensemble Mad About Lemon to craft a profound and distinct new concept piece.

Like the water that runs like a current through ‘Snow From Yesterday’, the album is fluid, versatile, and powerful. Represented in all its forms, from glacial mountains, to rivers, and even the smallest drop into watercolour, the album is about journeys and the stages of life that may change you, but also links you to others, in other times and other places. A flowing, tangible energy connects each track to its subject matter, and each track to one another. What’s important on ‘Snow From Yesterday’ is how the highs are grounded in very real, personal moments. It can at once tackle mammoth climate issues, while conveying moments of incredible intimacy.

Manu has become a leading name in his field, touring with the likes of Björk, most recently on her celebrated Cornucopia tour. His trademark handpan virtuosity is the rhythmic lifeforce of ‘Snow From Yesterday’, creating majestic, emotive sounds, often with a tender delicacy, for Mad About Lemon’s folksy harmonies to pour over.

Album opener ‘Modern People’ works as the stream’s source, a soft, lighter start that gradually grows. Lyrically it looks at the technology we have today and asks us to consider how important it will be in 100 years’ time, when weighed up against a larger backdrop of many environmental crises, or even war. Follow-up ‘Little Heritage’ also explores this concept of colliding timelines, it collects samples from Manu’s grandfather telling the story of how he met his wife, with his new-born daughter’s voice recorded 10 years later, meeting here when in reality they missed each other by only 6 months. It gives Manu the opportunity to write about generations and transience, which are key themes on ‘Snow From Yesterday’. Past and future are viewed like passing ships or tectonic plates, sometimes with great distance and sometimes divided by nothing but a narrow brook.

‘Polar Bear’ also tracks a journey, Manu tells us that “the lyrics were inspired by a picture of a white polar bear in a completely black landscape. Because all the ice has gone and melted. In the song where the polar bear travels to Iceland. Iceland doesn't have polar bears. But as far as I know, around 12 Polar bears in history have managed to travel from Greenland to Iceland, which is about a 150-mile journey. But when they arrive in Iceland, they get shot right away. They just don't want polar bears there, and most of the bears that arrive are starving and almost close to death anyway. So, this song is a tribute to those polar bears who made the journey but then had a very sad ending to their incredible adventure.”

There’s an emotionally cleansing element to these stories, they often harbour a mournful message but one that Manu is keen to be viewed as hopeful. In time, and from different angles, these events no matter how seemingly hopeless, can give us strength. Whether personal or environmental, everything is temporary, fleeting, but also magical and adaptable. Water can bring great danger, even death, but it’s also a life giver.

‘Paintings On The Wall’ was written as a tribute to his step-father. “He passed away last year, and I wrote the lyrics immediately after, and we just started working on it with Mad About Lemon, and we performed it at the funeral five days later. So it was an immediate emotional response. And that was a really beautiful coming together for us. It's kind of a fantasy, my stepfather was a painter so it’s got these slightly mad abstract lyrics that don’t make a lot of sense. There’s more transience in this one, someone who has passed away but hundreds of their paintings are left behind.”

Moments of instrumental reflection are calming, ‘Ode To Earth’ and ‘Oxygen’ are built around airy, soft brass sounds. ‘Stay Afloat’ lists some of the large cities currently at risk of drowning, which makes for poignant, if shocking, listening. It adds a gravitas, shining a light on the real-world consequences of burning fossil fuels.

On ‘Immersion’, Manu describes rediscovering his beloved instrument. “The handpan takes centre stage. I've been playing my regular set of handpans for 20 years now but in this case, it's a new one, a Zephyr handpan that I only got last year, and it felt really fresh and inspiring to play. It reminded me of what the instrument is best at, a very beautiful sound. The melodies of Immersion sort of burst out of it spontaneously, and then we produced it with Matt Robertson and added some electronics.”

‘Slow-Mo Moving River’ describes glaciers with crystalline harps and cracking vocal effects; “A lot of people maybe don't know that they’re actually rivers moving incredibly slowly. So most people think of a glacier as like a steady thing on the mountain that's fixed or solid, but actually it’s moving but just at an incredibly slow pace. If you look at photos from places or yearly time lapses, they look different every year and they move a few inches. And I tried to do that in the music, the girls from Mad About Lemon were doing a lot of icy vocal sounds using cold sounding words. We also sampled real breaking ice.”

Vividly imagining a 19th Century Thames, ‘Docklands’ takes another look at history. “I was kind of looking back and imagining a London where the Thames was almost like a main road. It was so busy as a way of transport with ships and boats coming in from all over the world. And also, with a lot of stolen goods from other continents and places. And it’s also looking at how the docklands or East London looks now, where there's still remnants from that time. It's less of a climate track but more of a critique of colonialism, of plundering. Even lots of the names around the docklands are of that time and have Indian names, which links to the themes of past and present and future, and how we move on.”

We come full circle on LP closer and title track, based on the phrase “water under the bridge”, translated to German is “Schnee von gestern”, which literally means ‘Snow From Yesterday’. “I kind of liked that, because it’s the same as snow from yesterday is now literally water. I really like how these two languages stay different but actually, it ends up almost being the same because a lot of the water we have on the planet used to be snow at some point, whether it’s yesterday, 100 years ago or 10,000 years ago.”

Manu Delago uses his signature percussive skills, rotating band of multi-instrumentalists as well as electronic manipulation to create dynamic, high-concept explorations which harnesses the best of his adventurous spirit and unique vision. He has regularly collaborated with various artists such as Björk, Anoushka Shankar, The Cinematic Orchestra and Olafur Arnalds, has appeared as a soloist with the London Symphony Orchestra and more. He’s performed in prestigious venues in more than 50 countries around the world.

Over the last few years he’s established his ‘ReCycling Tour’, hitting the road by bike in the name of sustainability. All the musical instruments and equipment for the live performances were transported in specially built bicycle trailers. In addition to that, accumulators for electronics as well as light equipment could be charged on tour using solar panels. Throughout the ‘ReCycling Tour’ crew ensured that sustainable products and materials were being used. And they cooperated with small businesses and local producers when it came to accommodation and catering.

Mad About Lemon are a trio consisting of the three Tyrolean singers Heidi Erler, Mimi Schmid and Anna Widauer. The ensemble, founded in 2020, experiments with the euphony of the three-part choral settings, improvisations and performance elements, always focusing on the musical aesthetics and the emotional message of the songs.

‘Snow From Yesterday’ travels far, across endless oceanic expanses, and thousands of years, telling stories that aim to help the listener to see themselves as part of a larger body. After all, all rivers lead to the sea.