San Leo Drives to the Center of the Mind on “Mantracore” (Early Album Stream)
Not every album needs to be listened to as a whole, all at once, but Mantracore does: forged from two massive twenty-minute songs, it's perfectly sculpted to leave an impact as a singular entity. Smaller songs wouldn't have cut it: San Leo's meditative approach to fusing krautrock and ambient drone uses every second of that runtime to craft mind-spanning journeys out of carefully layered sound that can't be subdivided any further. We're streaming the whole album now, so find a comfy spot:
"MM" focuses heavily on rhythmic motifs, persistent drumming, and tightly controlled dynamics to drive the ebbs and swells of the song while creating an intoxicating pulse to fixate on. Hypnotists famously use metronomes to induce trance states; this is a groovier version of that. There's not much in the way of melody here beyond sporadic, echoing chords and ambient pads -- that's a good thing, since it would only distract from the mesmerization.
As "MM" washes away, "CORE" arises with more turbulence, more amplification, and a hint of doom to its affairs. It retains that element of transcendence-through-repetition that makes the first song so lulling, but now it comes along with reality-shaking rumbling and ramped-up tension. Because the first half of the record set up a baseline for listeners' ears, the riffs and punchy bits hit extra hard, converging with the rest of the framework to deliver a frenetic conclusion.
Long-format music like this always relaxes me: it's my go-to for lengthy workdays and high-stress periods when I need to buckle down and tune out distractions. That's especially true for Mantracore -- the repetitive, subtle heaviness and evolving temperament of the album sets me on a calmer path.
From the band:
We felt that our first 3 albums sounded different from each other, but the "songs" were all written with a similar approach. In order to make something that would feel both different and personal at the same time, we initially tried to visualize the music as it was not a depiction or narration of a thing, but rather the thing itself. We started to try and actually visualize each piece not by jamming and discussing some riff or rhythm, but by seeing it as a whole organism, before focusing on all the different moments and moods. With this in mind, the album slowly came along pretty much like we envisioned it, one piece after another.
After testing the pieces live for a year or so, we used a small studio with only a close friend of ours as the engineer, spending several months recording one layer after another (mainly with analog equipment), not rushing anything and taking all the time to listen and evaluate every single take. We sincerely think that our new album Mantracore will speak for itself.
Mantracore releases November 13th via Bronson Recordings.