Oh Manitou: From the Forest EP That’s Putting Independent Back In Indie

>> On May 19th of this year, Oh Manitou released their EP From the Forest. Being a band local to Rochester, NY, the group had to work damn hard to achieve such an excellent product. Much of the record’s composition and all of its recording and mastering was done by singer and drummer, Matt Battle. The band would be nothing without the ability of its current members, though, who have already cultivated an energy and cohesiveness of a truly professional rock band. Their sound is alternative to its core, packed with luscious swooning vocals and the occasional unruly guitar riff. There is a constant sense of comfort in each song, such that even when most of the group drops out for a moment of silence, there is always a persistent synth note or production swoon that prevents the listener from being dropped jarringly.

The Good:

Every member’s individual talents were leveraged perfectly. Guitarist Chris Potter must have been born to make an entrance because he comes in with the wildest riffs in the most unassuming times. Andrew Links on keys had the difficult job of knowing how to fill up empty spaces, but he did just that and beyond with the occasional solo (most notable during the outro of “People I’d Like to Be”). Bassist Kamara Robideau locks into the bottom end with ease and has an amazing ability when it comes to swooning styles with extra legato sliding. Sean Greif has perhaps the toughest role of rhythm guitar but tackles it with style and an intense energy that keeps the spine of the production straight and strong.

The individual parts fit together like compatible puzzle pieces. Battle’s ability to skillfully beat the crap out of his kit is unparalleled, but his true talent is knowing how and when to take a back seat (politely), in order to allow other complex instrumentals through the front end. There’s something to say about resonant and constant tom strikes that hold down the fort just right. Beyond just part-etiquette, though, the group seems to have a knack for knowing when and when not to synchronize different parts. The vocals and lead guitar have a tendency to mimic or hang out with each other on certain melodies, and it adds nicely to the mix.

Beyond melodic synchronicity, the band is able to move from section to section of each song as a unit, ensuring no powerful guitar chord or riff goes unaccompanied by a cymbal crash and bass thump. It’s as if the EP is a modern novella of indie rock.

The Bad:

The only disappointment, and a small one at that, is the fact that the mix and production of each song is close the same. Readers should not confuse production with composition; Each song is supremely unique in its structure and parts breakdown. That fact doesn’t take away from a sense of predictability in the overall mix of each. The guitar settings, drum style, and keyboard EQ are essentially locked into place from song to song, but there are worse problems to have than consistency as a band.

The Review:

The fact that this EP was produced, mastered and released completely independent of a production studio or label is impressive enough to earn this emerging band its keep. It’s some seriously professional shit, to put it lightly. Even without considering that, though, this album's caliber is above most of what’s being released by major league alternative artists today. The group did a great job at giving fans of the genre an amazing new sound with no sense of stagnation or emptiness in any of the twenty-one minutes of content released. 4.5/5 <<