THE MANIFESTATIONS - The Manifestations (Independent)
Let's start with what it isn't and that's re-hashed Dee-troit rawk (and, believe me, I've been told how self-limiting that tag may be, so the players on this disc need no reminding). It's not in the vein of originators Radio Birdman or the scores of lesser entities that appeared in their wake, which of course is where the uninitiated might slot it after a cursory glance at the credits (Mark Sisto, Warwick Gilbert, Pip Hoyle and Chris Masuak among them). Pushed to come up a comparator, you might pick "It Is What It Is" period Hitmen - but that's only part of the story.
West Coast pop-rock, folk rock, sci-fi inspired psych and a good dose of terminal weirdness mix it up. A boring ride it ain't. If you need proof that this disc covers a lot of ground in seven songs, "Look and Turn" is baroque pop-folk that you won't find on many so-called rock releases. And before you diss the Hitmen analogy, have a listen to "Once It's Undone" (sounds like the Hitmen's "Gonna Be Late") or the bassline on "Eyes Freeze Time" ("Corridors of Power").
The Manifestations, in their recording incarnation, were mostly a songwriting outlet for ex-Birdman/Hitmen member Warwick Gilbert and former Visitors singer and Birdman alumus Mark Sisto. Live, the band appeared in a few forms in the early and mid-'90s, but only gigged sporadically without making a lasting impression. If you missed 'em (and most did), this is a posthumous relic, and a little more clean-sounding (naturally enough) than the live outfits. It's derived from a series of demos but "The Manifestations" is more than a curiosity piece. The production is inconsistent - a reflection of experimentation and the fact it probably wasn't intended as a release - but most people will wear that.
There are two bands represented; the first is the 1993 version powered by bassist Brad Ferguson (Juke Savages) and drummer Gerard Presland (Hitmen/Juke Savages) with Sisto on vocals and Gilbert on guitar. The other, spanning '94-95, boasts Hoyle on keyboards, Andy Newman (ME-262) on bass and Paul Larsen (Celibate Rifles) on drums. Chris Masuak (keyboards) adorns the early tracks, vocalist Madeline Chase (Skolars) turns up on the later era "Look and Turn", adding a nice contrast to Sisto's baritone.
If you only knew Warwick Gilbert as a bass player in Radio Birdman or the Hitmen, you might be surprised in his guitar playing. Six strings were his original forte (albeit in fairly primal form in The Rats, his pre-Birdman outfit) and he really excelled in the late lamented surf combo The Raouls. There's a lot to like about his playing, ranging from a fluid pop-rock ("Night Sender") to short circuited noise ("Ships In").
As well as having formidable and untutored vocal talent, Mark Sisto has one of the most off-the-wall senses of humour around. A bandmate in his current outfit, Vindicator Electro, reckons - in a complimentary way - that he dabbles in art rock and it's rumoured "Twisted Sisto" was in contention when they were searching for names. ("We're Not Going to Take It" would have been an interesting choice of cover - but I let's not digress). There's lots of intriguing lyricism to ponder ("Eyes Freeze Time" evolves into "ice freezes time") plus sonic quirkiness (the vocal overdub counterpoint on "Atom Action" sounds like an interloper broke into the studio - and Klondike's Mazatronic keys are positively xlophonic).
The songs are more sprawling than anything Mark ever sang in the Visitors (there's a faint echo of that band in "Night Sender"). An external production hand might have imposed some judicious trimming, but I don't know if imposed conventionalism would have improved "The Manifestations". It's the individualism that many mainstream bands eschew - usually with a corresponding loss of spirit.
The cover artwork is by ex-Lipstick Killer Mark Taylor and the liner notes are vintage Sisto. This is a limited edition and only a handful remain, so once they're gone that may be it (unless someone decides to pony up the dosh for another pressing). – The Barman
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