Manon Meurt Unravel cover

Manon Meurt – Unravel (Minority Records)

If you’re new to Czech band Manon Meurt, now is the ideal time to join the party.

They’ve been an impressive feature of the European alternative scene for the last ten or so years, with buzzing festival performances at Reeperbahn, Eurosonic Noorderslag, Ment Ljubljana, and Sharpe Bratislava, as well as several tours. However, as they’re still very much under the radar over here, the fact their second album Unravel emerges after a six-year gap will matter less. After their acclaimed debut MMXVIII (2018), heavily influenced by the original standing wave of UK shoegaze acts like Slowdive, Ride etc, Manon Meurt could have easily hitched a ride on the recent renaissance of this scene. Instead, they have chosen a very different path. One of evolution and exploration.

So, latecomers, you’ve missed nothing. Manon Meurt’s new sound gives a delightfully surprising tingle down the spine as it flutters effortlessly from trip hop to grunge, to ambient folk via dips into pools of swirling dream pop chaos. It’s a product of the band’s dynamic shift in creativity, largely guided by the skilled hands of producer Eddie Stevens (Zero 7, Moloko, Roisin Murphy). Stevens, a seasoned producer sculpted a sound uniquely tailored for Manon Meurt in a process he compares to an adventure where “you can never really say for sure what’s going to happen”. Collaborating with the band, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Kateřina Elznicová, keyboardist David Tichý, drummer Jiří Bendl, and guitarist Kryštof Korčák, Stevens emphasised deconstruction and reconstruction. You hear and feel this in every corner of Unravel‘s forty-three minutes. Each song unfolds like a meticulously assembled automaton, revealing its secrets one by one, through contrasting textural layers and precise, suspended arrangements with unexpected tunings. This is a band who appear to have no shortage of ideas to explore.

Unravel “reflects the different stages of dissociation, a person’s thoughts, observations – whether of the environment or of oneself – and admiration for the beauty and cruelty that nature mirrors,” according to Kateřina. The combinations of styles will appeal as much to eclectics and musos as it will to fans of bands like Radiohead, Tricky, Daughter, to just name a few. Tracks like opener ‘Timeless’ spotlight the more soulful side to Kateřina’s vocals, against a backdrop of intricate piano and bass, interrupted by fizzes of synth and guitar screams.

Elsewhere, the band expands their palette, incorporating instruments like bouzouki, lyre, cello, mandolin, Saracen lute, and xylophone alongside the usual lineup. There is also a great sense of space in these songs, with the sound expanding in all directions, reaching into and filling every dimension before curling back into itself. ‘Linen’, a haunting folk-leaning waltz evokes a sense of being lost deep in a huge nocturnal forest, while ‘Peony Garden’ uses the emptiness around each drum strike to conjure a soundstage for Kateřina’s vivid lyrics. ‘Moonflower’ bathes in a silver glow of keys, rippling across the surface of a rising tide. It’s the kind of song that wraps itself around your mind as you fall into its depths.

Alongside the dreamlike narratives and ethereal soundscapes you might expect, there’s also moments of delicious tension and urgency, characterised in the blissfully overwhelming noise at the end of ‘Marrow’ and the album’s climactic close, ‘Mirrors’ which twists menancingly with its hypnotic mantra, building in intensity. Here Kateřina’s vocals echo in a rich chorus, reflecting the fight within, hissing with anger, wailing with regret as her powerful voice turns in on itself like ouroboros:

“In growing roots of madness

You’re all of my mirrors”

Unravel is the sound of a band fully coming into their own. A delicate balance of introspection and dynamism, it holds your attention throughout with a mature and meticulously crafted approach. Moreover, Manon Meurt don’t just engage the inner muso. They also make you feel every shake and tear of this vast, intense, immersive sound.

‘Unravel’ is out now.

Manon Meurt Letohradek 2023 foto Standa Kohout 5889x3926

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.