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Guy Mantzur & Sahar Z – Time (Lost & Found)

The wait is over. One of the most anticipated albums of the year, Guy Mantzur and Sahar Z’s collaborative “Time,” is finally slated to hit the digital shelves from Guy J’s meteorically rising Lost & Found imprint.

guy mantzur & sahar z - time

After his breakthrough “Moments” release last year being one of the highest acclaimed releases of 2013, Mantzur reunites with long time friend Sahar Z to bring fans the next chapter in the underground progressive album. Let’s check it out.

We commence our journey with the appropriately named “In the Beginning.” Starting off minimally and growing with a variety of effects and swells, we are greeted at around the first minute mark with some beautifully modulating pads, filtering in and out, and a deep, low rumble bass riff that also filters from grumbling and low to middy and almost guitarish. With all the core elements established, “In the Beginning” emerges into full light during it’s breakdown with additional atmospheres and pad movements that clearly harken back to the musical roots of Mantzur, who has a long list of ambient credits to his name dating back from before his dancier days. With techie, vintage influenced percussion gliding in, a trancy synth lead slowly rises out of the soundscape and treats us to a beautiful, emotional riff. The lead took a long time to arrive, but was totally worth it, because it really ties the track together. With the reintroduction of the bass following it’s chord progression and taking us through to the end of the track, we’re given an excellent warm up here highlighting some of the quality production value we can expect to see throughout the album.

Track number 2, entitled “Small Heart Attack” and featuring the lovely vocals of Amir Darzi, jumps right into the action, and from the 1st bar we are immersed in the classic hypnotic, funky sound that the Israeli duo have championed so prominently time and time again in their work. Even further than that, “Small Heart Attack” represents a true refinement and sophistication of melodic underground’s music resurgence. The clave riff that provides the foundation to the rhythm is pure programmed dirtiness, the bass is groovy and driving, and the brilliance of the horns, pads, and atmospheres surround you. Couple that with the amazing effect work on some trippy vocals with powerful chop edits and excellently timed delays, a style Mantzur and Sahar have mastered in previous releases this year, and you’ve got yourself a banger. This folks is the track of the album in my mind because the mastery of the groove is so spot on: everything fits together in such a moving synthesis you can’t help but feel it from start to finish. Simply put, it’s a bomb.

“Sliding Doors” is the third take and features yet an even faster pace. A classic prog-tech groove wins the day here, featuring a driving hi-hat rhythm, dark rolling bass, and a mid percussive instrument riff that all serves to keep pushing the beat forward. Some well placed horn pads add a nice touch of variation to keep everything from getting too repetitive, and the modulation and melody employed gives that classic sense of progression, as it becomes continually more intense as the track develops and transitions from complimentary in nature at the beginning to a full on lead instrument by the end. Fans of the old-school will really enjoy this one, because it’s got that vintage mixture of melody, progression, and tech all rolled together nicely.

Number 4 on the list is “Future Memories,” which once again starts off with a driving pace and doesn’t waste any time establishing it’s constants. While the elements that intro the song, some heavy pad work and mid-bass effects, provide a proggier undertone once again, the funky more house oriented bass line gives the track it’s own flavor, and acts more as a lead in my mind than any other instruments. The addition of techno percussion, particularly with the high hats, late in the track, once again throws another genre’s own layer onto the piece, and thus one is left with this inter-genre combination of styles: house, progressive, and tech put together in a very unique fashion. With lots of experimental effects floating around all that and some unique use of delays and echoes for additional variation, “Future Memories” leaves the listener with a one-of-a-kind mixture of the abstract and the familiar, put together in ways you definitely would not normally expect.

“Time To Treasure” is our fifth song, and the upbeat pace the last 3 takes have begun with is continued with fast moving riffs that are introduced from the onset. I personally feel, however, with the onset of the bass and a dynamite clap to compliment it, we are entering Sahar and Guy’s groovy funk territory once again. The bass is one of those nice tech house/progressive hybrids that has gained so much popularity in 2014: it’s bouncy like tech but it contains the note complexities that let it roll like progressive (the best of both worlds in my mind). “Time To Treasure” keeps it simple and lets the listener really take in the strength of this beat for most of it’s beginning, and it works well. Once we enter the breakdown, the track builds in complexity with the addition of new instruments that flow in to fill the gap where the bass once occupied melodically. What I enjoy though in particular about this is the track still doesn’t lose it’s funkiness, and we are left with a dancy core intact even though the melodic interlude is quite long. Once the kick and bass come crashing back in, it still maintains that it picked up where it left off, and that in my mind lends to a pleasant feeling for both the casual listener as well as the club dancer.

“Rewind Us” starts off with a great progression: the bass line starts out thin and gradually filters into the track, ending up dark and deep. We’re greeted soon after with chunky techy hats, a big crunchy clap, and some cool vox-like effects that not only take the track in a more techno-oriented direction but also add a certain level of heaviness that compliments the bass really well. Some additional bells and whistles in the form of a mid-bass riff that adds some funk, some swelling melodies, and a couple cool stabs that bounce around back and forth from left to right make this track a fun one, and everything all together creates a nice vibe that never overwhelms you but also never loses your attention. Very cool sound.

“Survivor’s Guilt” takes us in a much darker direction than previously, and represents a different direction for the album in my mind. With creeping low vox pads, an abrasive percussive synth, and minor bass melody, we are slowly built into the heavily groovy flow that all these instruments encompass together more and more as the track grows. Add some more dissonant pads into the mix, speed up the riffs, and the track goes into straight overdrive when the bass comes into full force and some excellent driving hats are thrown into the mix. Straight groove, hard and unapologetic, is the name of the game here, and it’s executed quite well. Once again, Mantzur and Sahar do an excellent job of using vocal stabs, highly processed with juicy effects, to flow in and out of the track and add some real soul to the beat. Once we enter into the breakdown and some excellent horns are also brought in, we again see this excellent talent for synthesis from the production duo and the whole track as an entity begins to be felt in a new light. When everything comes right back in with the beat, we are both immersed in the tracks master sound and simultaneously enticed to keep on dancing.

“The Greenwich Tunnel” continues with the dark and groovy, taking us on an effect ridden journey where some more experimental sounds are weaving in and out of a steady pounding bass/kick combination complimented by some driving percussion. It provides a natural arena for the growing synths riffs that start to rise out of the track and carry the melodic side to the song. One thing in particular about the percussive effects I’m really digging in this track is the vintage and old school throwback to traditional, pure underground progressive. This track features a lot of stylistic qualities that are reminiscent to the Sasha & Digweed Twilo years, when dark and dirty riffs with lots of distortion and guts on them ruled the day. Given it has a modern feel to it mixing-wise, the old and the new both have a stake here that meshes well.

Next up is “Our Foggy Trips,” and here once again we have a traditional-oriented very gradual build based around a hypnotic groove supported with a myriad of cool, unique effects. Much sooner here though, some lighter melodic elements come into play that take us away from the darker sounds we’ve been listening to for most of the 2nd half of “Time” and into an almost trancy realm. Big, luscious pads with a sense of the truly epic encompass the beat, and I can hear some 80s nu wave influences coupled with the epic trance of the early 2000s all making it’s way into this sound. The melody is enjoyable and it’s progression is both interesting and powerful, so from a musicality standpoint it’s another strong addition to the album and another nice mix of diversity.

“Floored” takes it back to the housier side of things again, with a tech house influenced mid/bass arrangement coupled with some highly swung delayed hi hats. Once again we’re seeing some great experimentation with delays, ambience created through spacey reverb, and some great soundscapes via the use of hornish and swelling pads and some background arpish sounds that trickle in and out of the piece. This is a nice transitional piece in my mind, it can serve well in a DJ set to take us from deeper material into some more bouncy, dance-oriented work, and surely will serve well in a good building DJ’s arsenal.

The penultimate track, “Temporary Sanity,” heads into a much deeper direction. A dubby bass, some some echoing riffs, and ambient percussive effects lead us into a breakbeat rhythm that has all the markings of a quality chillout track. All of the thematic motifs that the album has really highlighted so far, particularly with pad and delay work, make their appearance once again, but now in a new context from a genre standpoint, and it is actually quite refreshing to appreciate them in this new light, as we’ve become accustomed to them from a listening standpoint. The track, like many that we’ve heard here, aims from an arrangement standpoint to take us on a journey, where the overall collective experience is more important than slamming a beat in or throwing some crazy sounds in your face. I appreciate the subtlety Mantzur and Sahar aim to communicate via just letting you “stretch” out musically and enjoy the elements for what they are. It could be argued as an old school approach as far as structure is concerned, but this album has clearly aimed to create it’s artistic conveyance through symbolism and thought as opposed to attempting to force you to dance, and thus is appropriate from that standpoint.

We end things off with a pleasant Acoustic Mix of “Small Heart Attack,” the showstopper of the album, that allows us to really relax and enjoy the vocals as more of the guide to the rest of the work here, as well as allowing Guy and Sahar to experiment with different sounds and interludes that may have not fit with the dancier “Original” mix. While the primary version still wins over all in my book, this new mix is a cool way to wind down the listener from our sonic journey and appreciate a great premise from a fresh perspective. Nice work.

“Time” as an album, as I mentioned previously, is clearly an attempt at a cerebral artistic statement through underground dance music. It is obvious from that start that it is not a haphazard collection of dance tunes that were trying to find their way into making it into every DJ’s solely to attempt to get people dancing. The song and album structure were intentionally designed to get you to appreciate the moods that specific elements tried to convey, and to get you to experience the album from a journey-like perspective. In this regard, the album should most certainly be viewed then as a whole, and it does work quite well that way: the mood starts off building anticipation and slowly working itself into dark, driving beats that make their appearance about halfway into the record, and from there it takes you back down into a more relaxed atmosphere that leaves you off peacefully and satisfied that as a whole, everything complimented itself. The choice to keep the songs longer and let their elements play out only further reinforces this vision, and once again, as Guy Mantzur stressed about his last album, the aim here is to feel like a real “traditional” album, not a collection of beats. In this attempt, I feel that Guy Mantzur and Sahar Z have succeeded quite well in their artistic pursuit, and furthermore they have demonstrated that if you are diligent enough with your attention to detail, you can in fact still create a dance album modeled around the traditional album rubric that “works.” This does in fact work, and overall, “Time” should be appreciated as one entity, and one beautiful collective vision. Excellent job done here once again by the collaborative duo and the team over at Lost & Found: time is most truly on their side. 8.5/10

review written by James Gill.

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