Man Without Country are Welsh duo Ryan James and Tomas Greenhalf who have impressed us with their debut album Foe last year. I couldn’t resist giving it a five star rating and making it my album of the year as their mix of electronica, shoegaze and honest lyrics was the most exciting new thing I’d heard in a while. A support slots for M83 followed suit as well as numerous festival appearances. I saw them again at this year’s Berlin Festival where they made the most of an early afternoon slot.
Today marks the release of their new four track EP Entropy, Pt. 1. As the title suggests, the EP is the first installment of what must at least be two releases. I was lucky enough to get a live impression of their new stuff at Berlin Festival and it blew me away.
The EP kicks off with Claymation, an upbeat track that creates a soundscape formed by deep synth entangled with Ryan’s hushed vocals and is reminiscent of Puppet from their debut.
Oil Spill slows the pace and is centered around a heavy drum beat. While Foe lyrically focussed on themes such as fame, greed, and fading beauty, Entropy deals with maritime metaphors (Oil Spill, Catfish, Deadsea). Oil Spill sees the band back at their most melancholic once more.
Catfish‘s opening line immediately reminded me of King Complex. More so than the other songs on the EP if focusses on the vocals. The lyrics are cryptic and less straight forward than on their debut but it still seems that Ryan James is getting square with someone (Go throw your money at a dead horse / Keep up the masquerade). The song might be about a relationship falling apart, but that of course is only my interpretation. The addition of vocals by Danish singer Lisa Alma adds to that assumption.
Deadsea is the final song on the EP and it is also the longest. With a running time of over 7 minutes it is right in line with Ebb & Flow and Parity from Foe and it focusses on the music rather than on the lyrics which have little room here. In fact, the lyrics became almost irrelevant when Ryan’s vocals become so entangled with the music that it is nearly impossible to make out the words at all. It features all kings of sounds, one in particular reminding me of a toy gun that I had when I was a kid.
Entropy, Pt. 1 creates bittersweet soundscapes and is a worthy follow-up to Foe, parts of which were recycled for the EP. “The idea behind Entropy came from our passion for digital manipulation and recycling audio. We dismantled some of our old ideas, took audio samples from old drum machines, old pianos, and even audio from our album ‘Foe’. We manipulated and reconstructed them to create the new music“, says Tomas Greenhalf.
Entropy, Pt. 1 leaves you wanting more but as the name suggests, part 2 will come eventually. Man Without Country have developed their sound but also their lyrics further. Lyrically, the songs have become more cryptical. The sense of not belonging that is suggested by the band’s name is carried on in songs that talk about swimming in the oil spill and drowning in the dead sea. Musically, the songs are just as captivating as their previous releases. If you like M83, Sigur Ros, or RÖyksopp, Entropy, Pt. 1 is a must have.