Barring the Swedish Congo record from last year, Peder Mannerfelt’s music under his eponymous moniker has featured a very unique aesthetic. Unlike his work as the Subliminal Kid, there’s something instantly recognisable as a Peder Mannerfelt track, but as his discography expands, it’s getting harder to construct a whole picture of what it exactly is that pulls it all together, but it’s there nonetheless. Through his latest album Controlling Body, he again takes us into a new swirling dimension of his artistic expression, one that seems familiar from his previous works, but dependent on anything from them. Coming off the back of the third EP from the label that’s also the exclusive vehicle for the artist, Controlling Body finds Mannerfelt building on, and refining the sonic aesthetic set forth through the three preceding EP’s on the very same label, Peder Mannerfelt Produktions, while sounding quite different from his debut. In his most recent work what’s become the underlying factor tying it all together is Mannerfelt’s ability to expertly deconstruct club music to is core parts, and erect something completely new from the pieces of an original theme. This results in music that can go from subtle ambience to aggressive body music without ever conforming to any one particular field of thought.
Similarly to EP III, where something as banal as the words “clap” and “bass” can form the cradle from which an entirely song springs to life, Controlling Body uses elements like a sine wave or a word from which to build a new composition. As in the case of the sine wave and the first cut on the album, Building of a Mountain, Mannerfelt’s compositions take on the appearance of a living, breathing sonic sculpture at the point of gestation. Like a biological organism, the song continually develops from an original central theme that eventually gets consumed within the grand narrative of each song. Mannerfelt creates a marvellous moments of suspension through these methods, while avoiding the inherent instinct towards a complete and introverted experimentalism that often deters this type of music from reaching a wider audience. From the lethargically pulsating movements and striking sonorities of a track like Abysmal, to the more overwhelming experiments of a track like Perspectives, there seems to be a sincere investment by the artist to avoid the obvious, while at the same time pushing at the edges of known convention.
Controlling Body is possibly the most concise Peder Mannerfelt has been to date with regards to defining a Mannerfelt sound, especially off the back of the preceding EP, but once again he takes it into newer directions. His familiarity to club music once again shows its colours, from the blistering break beats of Her Move to the more laid back dubby encounters of BZ Reaction, but Mannerfelt is at his most impressive when he distils these club influences down to their fundamental parts and builds them back up from there. Limits to Growth is just such an example with the artist tearing apart a vocal sample to a simple word, from which creates something entirely different, echoing the repeated word lifted from the sample, when it “creates”. The track undergoes a magnificent metamorphosis, as something ethereal and evocative spilling out of the mist where before a simple vocal sample stood. It re-iterates the appeal of the album first expressed through Building a Mountain and driven home on the final track I Love You, which sees it conclude on what is probably the most impressive composition Mannerfelt has ever constructed. Between the Björk-like vocal, the innovative electronics and the club influences of that track, we find Mannerfelt at his most comprehensive. There are elements of marginal experimental electronics that come together in pop-referencing forms and developments that would leave even the most uninformed listener stunned, without alienating the more adventurous listener. It’s something that is incredibly difficult to do, regardless of your talent, but something Mannerfelt has perfected through the whole of Controlling Body.
It’s a spectacular end to an album that just keeps on giving as you delve further and further into it. More than that, it’s an incredible highlight in Mannerfelt’s already outstanding discography, which in the shadow of his debut, Lines Describing Circles shows an artist able to experiment without losing sight of the final execution. Mannerfelt might have been less compromising to his experimentalist nature on his debut album, but on Controlling Body he’s definitely found a groove that appears to come quite natural to him now. It opens up a whole new dimension to the artist, which through the three preceding EP’s sees the artist certainly refining something behind the music. Controlling Body sticks with you for some time to come and skipping back through the rest of Mannerfelt’s discography, a picture comes into focus of an artist whose signature aesthetic is not the sound of a trend, a particular machine or a place, but rather something more wistful and fleeting, quite like an abstract feeling. It doesn’t bring us any closer to defining Mannerfelt’s sound though, but it certainly starts giving us a more focussed picture of a character in the music.