Mantler – Sadisfaction

June 19, 2008


Sadisfaction (Tomlab 2002)

I’ve always felt that the German Tomlab label doesn’t get the attention it deserves. From the lush glitches of Tujiko Noriko and The Books to the ambient ear candy of Sack and Blumm and Rafael Toral, it boasts more hits than misses. However, the label’s best, yet criminally unheard album is by Canadian Chris Cummings otherwise known as Mantler. If this album was released in the 70s, collectors would hail him as an eccentric loner akin to Skip Spence’s Oar or John Phillips’ Wolf King of LA. Now, it is a few steps below those in quality, but Sadisfaction exists in its own idiosyncratic universe.

On the surface, Sadisfaction is a gloomy, plodding electronic pop album with lots of retro keyboards, but Cummings’ lyrics must document a personal breakdown of some sort. For example, “I’ve Been Destroyed” features a creepy slowed down loop of him singing “I’ve been destroyed and broken down” as he testifies about how he is a masochistic cliche for allowing others to get close to him. The opener “You Were Free” deals with the crushing sadness he feels as he wakes up alone and goes on tear himself up over his tendency to think instead of act. Yeah, it all sounds like a page torn from a teenage diary, but his robotic take on Kraftwerkian soul hearkens back to the the 70s psychedelic soul balladry and Fender Rhodes work on Stevie Wonder, Sly Stone and Frederick Knight’s sadder tunes. However, it is much nerdier and asexual. I guess that is why he has been rejected so much that he has created an album like this. He even reminds me of a sane Gary Wilson on a few times. God, I maybe talking this album up too much because I can see how you may download this and be unimpressed and wonder why I ever described this as robotic soul. Me, I love every narcissistic, paranoid, insecure second.

3 Responses to “Mantler – Sadisfaction”

  1. bryan Says:

    Good show! It absolutely deserves a wider audience–the record and label alike. Your take on “I’ve been Destroyed” is quite fine, and probably the closest reading this unbuffed gem ever got. Hats off to you, Harper…

  2. Thanks for the nice review of Sadisfaction! I’ve reread it many times since you posted it in 2008.

    I just wanted to alert you to the fact that my new album Monody just came out in North America/Europe on Tomlab, and will be out in late May in the UK on Tin Angel Records. It’s very much the “sequel” to Sadisfaction – kind of mining the same sadrock vein, but in a more epic incarnation. And less narcissistic (hopefully…)

    I’ll also be playing a bunch of shows in the UK in late May and early June, with a 4-piece band. We’ll be playing I’ve Been Destroyed and Lately I’m Sad as a regular part of the setlist FOR SURE…

    Tourdates are posted here:

    Thanks again!

  3. Retardo Says:

    wow. that was the real mantler!

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