Pairings, 2007

— Album

Pairings, the first full length collaboration between Marc Manning (Heavy Lids) and Yann Novak. Pairings is an exploration into a now standard formula, a traditional instrument processed by laptop. Novak and Manning choose to use the formula to explore their often similar emotional states resulting in six improvisations divided into pairs by instrument. The album moves gently through melancholic drones and ambient washes, ending in a soft flurry of fractured melodies. Pairings showcases the tender relationships between songs, instruments and musicians.

Track Listing

  1. Pairing 1 pt. 1
  2. Pairing 1 pt. 2
  3. Pairing 2 pt. 1
  4. Pairing 2 pt. 2
  5. Pairing 3 pt. 2
  6. Pairing 3 pt. 2


Yann Novak: Laptop.
Marc Manning: Electric guitar, acoustic guitar & voice.
Photo by Steven Miller.

Read Reviews

  • Al solito i prodotti della statunitense Dragon’s Eye Recordings appaiono finemente regolati da una stuttura funzionale e congrua. I maestri Yann Novak (laptop) e Marc Manning (guitar and voice) hanno composto sei strati di mulìebre musica. Molto probabilmente “Pairings” è uno dei dischi, appartenenti a questa label, più malinconici che io abbia mai ascoltato. E per dire (o scrivere) tutta la verità i drones compressi in quest’opera sono fra i più melodici e struggenti di tutta la musica sperimentale che, finora, ho avuto modo di fruire. Bisogna lasciarsi trascinare dal buio, dall’impeto delle emozioni, dalle lacrime che sgorgano fluenti e poi ricominciare a camminare…
    – Ideabiografica

  • It is a trivial artistic creed that once you’ve found your groove, you should never let go of it. This motto is held in even higher esteem by the protagonists of drone music, to whom change represents something of the aural equivalent of filing your tax return: You know it’s inevitable, but you’d like to postpone it for as long as you possibly can. Which is why it is all the more applaudable that Yann Novak and Marc Manning have opened themselves up to the tide of chaos, creating seams and ruptures instead of weaving webs into infinity.

    Essentially an experiment in bridging the divide between the hands-on approach of instrumental performance and the occasionally bewildering abstractions of laptop electronics, the duo embarks on what at first appears to be a straight-forward ambient excursion. Two opening pieces built from electric guitar emissions are drawn-out tonal meditations of great stillness and the kind of stuff ideally suited for nocturnal listening sessions in silent bedrooms. Waves of harmonics well up and decay, pierced by occasional atonal frequencies, but generally remaining true to a core mood of agreeably dark hypnosis and peaceful stasis.

    As the instrumental pairing moves towards acoustic guitar, however, so does the entire balance of the album. It is a subtle transition, yet a powerful one: The first time I listened to the record in the middle of the night, I was completely shaken by the sudden arrival of melody and harmony, Manning dictating gentle metaphors into Novak’s tape recorder, building cycles of tenderness from extremely minimal means. This game continues on a second piece, which takes on a more pensive and plaintive note, a crystalline, music-made moment of holding one’s breath and watching at the world in wonder.

    In the final section, however, the tectonics shift once more, forcing the dronescapes to crack up and give way to the surreal noises and gigantic cavernous voids underneath. Placing bewilderingly unadjusted elements side by side and blending concrete and processed material as well as pitched tones and mere soundwork, the finale is one of amazement and confusion, rather than quiet majesty and overwhelming beauty.

    The achievement of “Pairings” lies in the fact that it manages to continually deepen its ambiance as it progresses. It almost appears as though the duo regards these contrasts as necessary stepping stones to draw listeners in and as though mere continuity, to them, would risk loosing their audience altogether. It is a marked difference in aesthetics to the rest of the drone scene and their defiance turns the album into a work of experimental dimensions, instead of an obvious crowd-pleaser.

    Manning and Novak have found a unique formula, which holds plenty of potential for the future. Now they’ve found their groove, it will be interesting how they intend to hold into it.
    – Tokafi

  • Upon first listening to Marc Manning and Yann Novak’s collaborative endeavor cleverly titled “Pairings,” I thought to myself, “this is the soundtrack to some futuristic themed ride at Disney’s EPOCT center.” And you know the rides I’m talking about, the one’s that depict some utopian and unrealistically peaceful Buck Rogers-esue future with pod shaped spaceship cars, robot housekeepers, television phones, but I digress. The point is that the first two tracks were generic, uninspired, and vapid. However, things take a significant turn for the better starting with track 3 and exponentially improve thereafter. “Pairing 2 pt. 2” is a brilliant matching of droning electronic noise and subtle, yet strategically placed acoustic guitar patterns and ethereal string orchestrations. This general pattern continues on “Pairing 3 pt. 1 which gets slightly more complex with manipulated flamenco guitar samples and richer sound textures that seamlessly culminates with the album’s closing track “Paring 3 pt. 2 which is a 10 minute piece that crescendos between lush and layered ambient textures and unsettling silence. They key element of these three tracks is that they are thoughtfully and tastefully composed to the extent that it manages to sound simplistic and spacious when there is in fact quite a lot going on musically. With the exception of the two opening tracks, which I already discussed ad nauseum, “Pairings,” (which I don’t think is cleverly titled in case you didn’t pick up the sarcasm) is a very interesting album that works and transcends beyond your run of the mill drone music which I’m sure was developed by the CIA for the sake of getting information from terrorists until they realized that Metallica works much better.
    – Chain D.L.K.

  • One-off partnerships can be a dubious proposition: often they are an excuse for the musicians to showboat or goof off. The personal dynamics of collaboration may be interesting to players but are irrelevant if the music can’t be appreciated outside that context. Mark Manning and Yann Novak avoid indulgence by making spacious, echoing pieces of ambient moan and murk. Dream Theater this is not. Both Manning and Novak have similar playing styles despite their different instruments and approaches. Novak’s contributions are subtle and often restricted to simply processing Manning’s voice and guitar. He does take the foreground in first two compositions, holding down resonant, metallic drones while Manning’s wordless vocals float over top. Visions alien monoliths and cryogenic storage would not be inappropriate. The rest of the album is less alien and foreboding. Manning plays more melodically while Novak throws the music slightly off kilter with oscillating delay. Both heap generous amounts of reverb on their concoctions, making the whole CD sound like it was recorded in a basketball court. Rather than coming off as a recorded jam session, Parings sounds like the work of group experienced with each other’s playing. Manning and Novak are obviously operating on each other’s wavelength.
    – Brainwashed

  • It’s been a long time, but I can finally start a review by using the dreaded word “ambient” again. That’s right, “Pairings” – a series of elaborations for electric and acoustic guitars and voice (Manning, aka Heavy Lids) and laptop computer (Novak) – could easily be placed in that zone especially because of its basic melodic and harmonic content (with a couple of intensely droning allusions: the second part of “Pairing 1″is splendid in that sense) which “showcases the tender relationships between songs, instruments and musicians”. Hold your horses, though – it’s not really all sugar and candy: the processing work that Novak applies to the sources, which allows the material to remain in a safety area of reverberating consonance, sometimes becomes a way of disturbing an otherwise excessive calmness. These hazy guitar waves undergo slight discharges, minimal fragmentation, discreet pitch transposition while maintaining their essential placidity, letting us enjoy the “barely there” presence of the music, halfway through a backward rubbing of our securities and the peek-a-boo appearance of sonic leprechauns that seem to have fun by rotating knobs and slides when the artists are turned somewhere else. This element of controlled intermission is what distances this release from the mountain of useless records systematically churned out by the frequenters of this genre. Instead, this CD is intriguing enough for at least two consecutive spins at late night.
    – Touching Extremes

  • The 4th non-CDr release from Dragon’s Eye comes from label owner Yann Novak and the excellent Marc Manning. Together they explore a theme which has become remarkably popular in recent times; the manipulation of live instruments using processing and computers. I like the honest way they’ve put these works together… there’s nothing contrived here, just a series of collaborative pieces that are packed full of atmosphere. Beautifully simple for the most part there’s a delicate sense of melody at work here that complements the underlying drone-style textures. I’m sure that you’ll love this album as it has a deliciously low-key, mellow, yet still challenging at times sound that’s really rather lovely.
    – Smallfish

  • Marc Manning and Yann Novak reveal themselves to be technically driven textural melodicist’s on their first coloboration, Pairings. With the first piece, we hear improvisation giving way to structural considerations that are satisfied compositionally – reverberating guitar chords that were previously processed into waves of oceanic drift become more articulate or other natural, more harmonious sounds flow out from the thicket of noises and establish a dynamic between sound and sense. Much of the album certainly displays a melancholic, slightly dark edge, though it is not presented with any sort of textual specificity. The works are structured with enough detail to strike one on the first pass through, and yet deep and ambiguous enough to unveil fresh layers even after a certain familiarity has been established. “Pairing 1 pt 2″ is one such track, as it glistens with keening, processed strings, tempered beautifully by metallic rattles that themselves come to melt into a soft snow of electronics. In this vein, “Pairing 3 pt 1″, with its granulated chime, appearing at various distances, and sometimes shrouded by a pall of grey electronic textures, casts a delightful dream-like spell. Other pieces, meanwhile, possessing as they do a fragile yet continuous motion, evoke images of mountain streams in winter. In fact, the albums chief attribute is that certain sounds maintain traces of the Beyond out of which they sprang – Manning and Novak simply catch them and find meaningful coincidences and correlations. Slightly controlled and yet in good part abiding by its own natural rhythm, Pairings is indeed an endearing catch.
    – Earlab

  • Marc Manning aka Heavy Leads plays electric and acoustic guitar and voice and Yann Novak plays laptop, both with releases on Seattle’s based Dragons Eye Recordings run by Novak. ‘Pairings’ is a mesmerizing ambient piece that consists on six tracks in which are delivered vast drone sections and guitar song structures. ‘Pairing’ 2 part 1’ is an outstanding song with acoustic guitar delays and minimal electronics. This is a soundscape layered with beautiful guitar textures and ambient washes.
    – Loop

  • Dragon Eye label owner Yann Novak unites with guitar player Marc Manning for an ultra-quiet album simply entitled “Pairings”. Filed under the heading of using a traditional instrument – guitar – which is then processed by Novak’s laptop, the album is an excursion into the world of microtones. Best word to describe the duo’s work would be drift. This is a drift of a wind that blows swiftly across the prairie landscape. It’s the same drift that one encounters in so much work that has been done in the past, so there’s no reason why we should dwell any deeper and over-analyze this to death. Other than to say, the duo has accomplished what they set out to do. While Manning’s guitar picking is often-times reduced to individual notes, Novak processes these beyond complete recognition, so much so, much of the time, the guitar sounds unrecognizable. Their ambient landscape that flows and ebbs at few-minute intervals is easy on the ears, while allowing the listener to fully immerse in their multi-faceted world. In building up their music along sheets of many layers, Manning and Novak have uncovered a huge mountain of ambience. Lulling, tinkling and serene, “Pairings” lays out a course for the fans of hushed and suggested sound.
    – Gaz-Eta / Recenzje

  • Dragon’s Eye is a label with ever increasing scope and ambition, and this new series of works entitled Pairings explores an established formula, by combining traditional instrumentation with laptop, and digital processing. The Seattle-based label has settled into a comfortable niche, releasing material by close friends and associates whose work shares similar spirit, if not methodology. The hybrid Pairings that emerge from Novak’s laptop and Manning’s guitar assemblages are delicate scrolls of ambience, that effortlessly unfurl, bearing the listener on warm, soporific waves, slender tendrils of tone that shimmer and cascade. This is auditory anaesthetic, a tonal balm that cleanses the spirit, and activates the mind of a receptive listener. After the initial washes of the first two tracks, the third piece (Pairing 2 , part 1) is quietly epic, almost filmic in quality, as wave after wave of glistening guitar, crashes over a tonal backdrop, it resembles Fennesz, or Herve Boghossian with its filigree textures, and understated charm. Throughout, I am reminded of Durutti Column, circa “LC”, as the reverb-drenched guitar illicits powerful and evocative emotional sequences, gently building emotional intensity, and tension, which explodes into finely wrought glissandi, that gradually erode and fizzle into overdriven digital noughts and ones. At first impression, this is not an overtly ground-breaking collection of works, but as the album approaches its finale, the luscious ambience is subtly overwritten with more exploratory techniques, and at the “sweet spot”, the interface of chaos and equilibrium, we are treated to some very special moments, that most likely blossomed free of human intervention..once again lapsing into Fennesz – tinted territory, but all the more interesting for that. More of the same please. I look forward to the next installment.
    – White_Line

  • The Dragon’s Eye Recordings, owned by Yann Novak, is slowly getting a weekly household name here. Hailing from Seattle, many of the releases have some sort of involvement of the labelboss himself. Here for instance he teams up with one Marc Manning, who usually works as Heavy Lids, which I never heard but is supposed to be ‘humid ambiance and electronic power drones along the lines of Black Dice, Nurse With Wound and Sunn O)))’, whatever that should sound like. Nothing so here, as Manning picks up the electric guitar, acoustic guitar and voice which he lets run through the laptop of Novak – the usual work these days it seems of combining a ‘real’ instrument with the computer. As such the six tracks captured here are also nothing new under the microsound sun, but the ambient and drone textures are quite nice. Sometimes a bit too obvious in time stretching, but when the ‘real’ instruments comes in, things balance quite nicely and makes this a fine work in the otherwise overcrowded scenery of drone, ambient and microsound.
    – Vital Weekly