'Asa Nisi Masa’ is a phrase that has no real meaning, from a scene from Fellini’s classic surreal autobiographical film 8 1/2. Appropriately, It’s also the name of the unscripted, gentle and introspective new LP from Italian artist Mana. Following his zig-zagging debut ‘Seven Steps Behind’ for Hyperdub in 2018, the new music was recorded from the end of 2019 to May 2020, mostly made in Quarantine.
The music here leans into the influences of late 70’s early 80’s Italian modern classical and film music and intersects with fourth world experiments of John Hassell and Sakamoto circa Async. As with his previous work, fm synthesis and the human voice are contorted into odd timbres, so often the listener cannot tell where one starts and finishes, however the lighter tone of 'Asa' leaves aside the foreboding darkness of his last album.
From the cascading opener ‘Spin and Loops’ onwards, ‘Asa’ seems to glide along in its own lane, a free running dream sequence of disassembling compositions, unstable, yet flowing, managing to stay long enough in one zone to be rewarding and resonating with enough emotional bandwidth in its heart wrenching, romantic melodies to sidestep the po faced demeanour of much experimental composition drawing from modern classical. Warm, and rich with earthy detail, defined by complex use of space and contrast, there is a depth of focus and detail to these tracks that Mana leaves the imagination of the listener to indulge in most of the time. From the woody cello of ‘Berber Pendulum’, the dove coo and metallic percussion of ‘Mania’, and the spiralling cicada chorus of ‘Eternia Corrente’, the album is a loose balance of delicate chaos and grand gesture.