From sitting behind his first drum kit at the age of 2 to mastering classical percussion, jazz drums, and composition in his formal education, Manu Delago built a foundation for what is turning out to be quite a unique musical journey. As a collaborator he has worked with an astoundingly diverse constellation of luminaries like Björk, Anoushka Shankar, Ólafur Arnalds, and The Cinematic Orchestra. As a solo artist, he continues to find to integrate dazzling handpan percussion with natural and electronic sound sources in compositional settings that are as imaginative as they are adventurous.
His newest excursion entitled Environ Me is realized as an audio-visual journey in which each track incorporates something from the artist’s immediate surroundings into the musical concept ranging from natural elements like fire and water to man-made objects like steel pylons, bicycles, or Velcro. What makes the album so uniquely entertaining is that these elements do not feature in passive field recordings, but rather they become an interactive part of the performance. It is a project Delago had considered for quite some time but having spent many years living between urban London and the Tyrolean Alps as well as performing on the road, it was not until the changes brought about by the pandemic that he was finally afforded the opportunity to do so.
I’ve had the idea for incorporating the sound of nature for a long time, but I’ve been on the road too much to properly dedicate time to it. With an emptied diary and being limited to more outdoor areas in order to record, we were given the opportunity to stop and consider the world around us.Manu Delago
As rich as the audio component is, it is the visual element in the form of films that go with each of the songs that elevates Environ Me to a whole new level. A prime example is this premiere video for “Transformotion” (sic), which brings the album’s subtly euphoric third track to life with time-lapsed images of Delago walking through a changing landscape, his footsteps forming the percussive heartbeat of the song as they blend in with handpan melodies and electronic beats and synths produced by collaborator Matt Robertson.
It took a whole year to record this track since the rhythmic backbone is built around footsteps across four seasons. Every three months I returned to the same location and recorded myself walking on the same path. Not only did the surface change, but I also varied the pace accordingly. On autumn leaves and winter snow I walked slowly, creating a slightly sustained percussion sound, whereas the crispy gravel invited me to walk faster in spring and even run in the summer.Manu Delago
One just has to sit back and admire the creativity, inventiveness, and joyous energy Delago has brought to life here. Environ Me is chock full of ideas that are both clever and playful, but never at the expense of the music. These are sonic progressions with a purpose that will no doubt open your eyes & ears to the vibrancy and musicality of the world around each of us in an inspiring way.
Environ Me is available now from One Little Independent Records digitally, on CD, and in a recycled ‘eco’ vinyl LP edition (color will vary depending on recycled vinyl availability). During the month the album was released, Delago and crew traveled around central Europe by bicycle to perform and raise awareness for environmental sustainability and now will be embarking on a European concert tour (see website for dates).