Those hoping for a romping new hi-NRG direction from Michael Mayer will be disappointed. Mantasy may sound like a '70s New York gay bar but it actually refers, explains Mayer, to his fascination with history's great madcap explorers: "Characters obsessed with an idea, to totally wrong conceptions of the world and faulty sea charts, to inconceivable exertions, all that lunacy." Does Mayer see himself as a fellow-traveller, sonically? A producer following his own Mantasy?
Perhaps. And with some validity. If you've been following the Michael Mayer story thus far then Mantasy will sound familiar; keen students will spot sonic signatures. Over a rockabilly rhythm, the giddy "Rudi was a Punk" reuses the dramatic, Morricone-esque xylophones that were a hallmark of the Supermayer album, and makes full jolly play of the relentless, almost cheesy brass that has latterly become a feature of the Kompakt sound. That such motifs aren't new barely matters. Mayer continues to use them in unique, counter-intuitive ways, and Mantasy is a significant elaboration on the modern Kompakt aesthetic. If the recent Total compilations have at times sounded like a grab bag of glib experiments, here Mayer weaves all those strands together in a remarkably cohesive work.
For the most part, Mantasy is a serious record that confidently takes its own sweet time. The beats don't fully kick-in until after the seventh track. As on his Immer mixes, Mayer is more interested in creating the right meditative mood than in going for the dance floor jugular. "Sully" is sweltering and intense, like Lindstrom contemplating the stars in an Amazonian jungle clearing. Likewise, "Lamusetwa"—all Space Odyssey sound palette and brass figures—encourages reverie rather than movement, despite its propulsive breakbeat. The title track's galloping, Viewlexx-style Italo homage ups the tempo, but "Roses" and the beautiful "Baumhaus" ease deliciously down through the gears. All bells, harps, birdsong and mournful woodwind, "Baumhaus" could be a lost track from Bjork's Debut.
Techno purists by now gnashing their teeth at all this sweet musicality, rest assured. Mayer can still rock the haus. "Voigt Kampff Test" and the more frivolous "Neue Furche" (a strange hybrid of high-voltage, pitchbent electro and handbag house bass patterns) are hard, rubbery tracks, pulsating with the promise of delirious moments in dark rooms. The anthem, however, is saved for last. Featuring Jeppe Kjellberg of WhoMadeWho on vocals, "Good Times" sounds like a CeCe Rogers Chicago house classic, as reinterpreted by hip, European music geeks. An anti-materialist paean to the more precious business of dancing, it is nothing less than a "Promised Land" for 2012. High praise, but then Mantasy demands such superlatives.