Some albums are worth waiting 10 years for. When Manitou’s All Points North came out around 2005, I was smitten with its washed-out, unhurried textures, stretched melodies, and overall sense of thoughtful calm. Plus, there was an air of mystery about it, as the label insisted that Manitou did not wish to be identified. Ten years on, it’s more of a known thing that Manitou is an alter ego of the very talented Matt Borghi. In this guise, he creates lush guitar ambient paeans to the memories of a Detroit long gone, captured here as Landscape Histories and Sentiments. The Manitou sound is like the whisperings of a ghost, breathy and melancholic. It is both warm and misty, and holds closely to the Eno-esque ideal of being engaging whether you’re actively listening or not. Borghi streams long, patient lines out of his gear and molds sets of textures. It could be the dark, metallic droning of “Zum Island Hums Beneath the River’s Current,” the hypnotic steadiness of “Last Cry of the Seven Sisters,” or the haunting keen and distant bell-like tones of “Keep the Lake Francis Light Burning for Me.” Although each feel similar on the surface—that hushed, stretched, airiness—each has its own distinct character. There’s definitely a minimalist mindset at play, that deceptive surface-level simplicity that drone work can show, but which goes away in a focused listen. Borghi builds and layers and deepens everything here, but does it with without rippling the surface. From the first note to the last, Landscape Histories and Sentiment is content to tell you its story in a low, assuring voice. I have mostly listened to this as an open-air loop, happy to let it change the atmosphere and mood, but pop on the headphones to really appreciate the slow-motion construction at work.
On his web site, Borghi notes that this second Manitou release may be the last. While I’m hoping that’s not the case, his two releases under this identity are among my favorite minimalist ambient albums. Graceful, thoughtful, engaging work that you need to hear.
Available from Matt Borghi’s web site.