Manufactured Relevance | Now Less Than Ever

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Now Less Than Ever

by Manufactured Relevance

An unholy marriage of mockery and art. Some call this monster "Frankenpop"-- a rough amalgam of various genres (rock, pop and spoken word amongst them), simultaneously accessible and strange, with humanity stirring beneath inevitable tragedy.
Genre: Pop: Quirky
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Zenith of Audicity
3:24 album only
2. Hot Metal
3:14 album only
3. To
5:31 album only
4. I Am One of the Planets of The Apes
4:04 album only
5. Scarlet Pants
4:18 album only
6. Return of the Jamaican
7:08 album only
7. Halo of Cheese
4:44 album only
8. Laroquet Redux
2:12 album only
9. King of Candor
4:38 album only
10. Diplomat
3:28 album only
11. Be My Baby
2:56 album only


Album Notes
By Gustav Verklempt, Senior Talent Scout
The Institute for Formulated Culture
[originally published in Dada Faucet Magazine, Vol.4 No.7]

Manufactured Relevance remains a study in contradictions, even now that the group is enjoying their proverbial 15 minutes of fame. MR’s music is immanently tuneful yet thoroughly enervating, precise in its intentions yet slovenly in its demeanor, melodious yet curmudgeonly. MR as a band is not often compared to other artists and genres. This may be because their music is “uniquer than others” (apologies to George Orwell), but just as likely it’s because such comparisons rarely yield much except rebuttals and bromides about “integrity” from the band’s quixotic (and occasionally inebriated) membership. They secretly want to be appreciated, to be sure, but they eschew labels almost to a fault. What a delightful irony, then, that their musical genius has finally earned them enough scrutiny to moot their conflicted self-promotional instincts— they can’t escape the limelight now, try as they might to position themselves as inscrutable.

Barl Armlandsen and Fred Ortley crossed paths several years ago at one of those corner cafes where people still read Proust and wear black turtlenecks, daydreaming amidst the smoky tendrils of clove cigarettes. Ironically enough, the pair happened to be there for all the wrong reasons— Barl because his Pinto had broken down and he just needed to use a phone (he’s a professor and fond of relics, but that’s another story) and Fred because he’d misplaced his last bundle of “self-medication” and desperately needed the high only several shots of espresso could provide. These two odd men out almost came to blows when Fred accidentally spilled his drink on Barl's tweed blazer, but they eventually became friends and later collaborators. In fact, “conspirators” is their preferred term, and their music certainly flips an impish bird at conventions and expectations.

Over time they amassed a significant body of work, they later explained, but popular validation (to say nothing of critical acclaim) still seemed beyond their grasp. It may have had something to do with their orchestration as a live duo. Both versatile musicians, they’d tried incarnations with oboe and ukulele, tuba and harp, and flute and (shudder) bongos, before finally settling on the far more sensible combination of guitar and piano. At that point, though they no longer drove away their prospective audience sonically speaking, they still had matters of rapport and stage presence to contend with. Heckled and even occasionally arrested for their earlier shenanigans onstage, Barl and Fred finally opted to “play things safe” after watching an episode of Behind The Music and deciding to avoid the “dark side” of rock-and-roll’s excesses (this as Barl explained it, balancing his hubris with appropriate caution).

In the spring of 2005 I discovered Barl and Fred performing at an “open mic” event. By that time, they had managed to hone their set, develop some basic stage banter, and keep their clothes on for the duration. Their performances were still undeniably spontaneous and inspired, and I saw a kernel of talent I felt my organization could nurture. At the Institute for Formulated Culture, where I have worked as a talent scout for several years, we have developed a new music production template called PCQ20. Short for Process-Content-Quotient of 20:1, this template dictates that one minute of music (as it appears on a finished album) must take no more than 20 minutes to conceive, record and master. It’s admittedly a radical idea, and flies in the face of current expectations that good music requires weeks (or months) to create. But I sensed right away that Manufactured Relevance would be a perfect candidate for PCQ20 work, and by extension a perfect example of its artistic merits.

In mere hours, Barl and Fred (aided minimally by a handful of perplexed session musicians) had rendered the masterwork “Now Less Than Ever” and achieved a goal which had eluded them for years— having their own album and a record label to promote it. The PCQ20 protocol was instrumental here. What was so remarkable, and indeed beautiful to witness, was how this unorthodox method of capturing music (pure focus and spontaneity, with minimal self-indulgent frittering) was as invigorating to MR as it would have been daunting to most other bands. Rising to the occasion, Barl and Fred created an artistic work brimming with personality and unsparing, uncensored vision. “Now Less Than Ever” is an awesome multiple-vehicle pileup of an album, bound to arouse the listener’s morbid curiosity. Even during its patently unlistenable moments, it commands a certain attention and respect, its subtleties providing the kind of surprise and pungency more commonly associated with uncovering the random items that gather behind sofa cushions, in neglected cupboards, and under doormats. Indeed, every song is an unlikely treasure.

I am proud to have been a part of MR’s strange yet poetic trajectory. I hope you find their music to be every bit as fascinating and rewarding as I have.

--Gustav Verklempt, April 2006



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