Time Columns – Mana – 87%

Mana cover art
Time Columns comes to us from Baltimore, Maryland and consider themselves to be “progressive post-rock”, a term I’ve never heard before in the realm of goofy genres (i.e. fusion-funk, post-modern neojazz, etc, are these real things?). I like to think of post-rock as a progressive, constantly changing genre that shows the most acceptance towards new musical concepts and ideas. While they are correct that their sound does have influences from prog-rock, particularly the Porcupine Tree esque tones and quirky guitar work found on this album, they are most definitely post-rock. “Mana” is the first true album from Time Columns, who previously released a 5-track and a live radio session as well.

The album begins with some beach side ambiance before slipping into a quick rhythm of playful guitars amidst a wall of seemingly never-ending loops and sounds. The band makes excellent use of deeply embedded samples during the second song on the album, “Lights at Rendlesham” which also happens to be the longest track clocking in at 11 minutes. Drumming generally compliments the rest of the album and cymbals sound clean and full of life. Bass adds flavor to the tracks and really rounds out the tight soundstaging by bringing it all together. I definitely prefer the more creative straight-forward math/prog inspired segments of “Mana” compared to their more ambient segments found throughout the album, which are largely uninteresting to me. Despite that, the whole album flows well with great synergy amongst the tracks. The vocals in the track “Luma” took me by surprise and the song itself with its ambient beach/sea atmosphere was definitely strong enough to stand on its own without the need for the one-off vocals. The album comes full circle ending with the same beach side ambiance except that this time it’s also accompanied by the sounds of voices having what sounds like a party or a Luau.

One particular thing I like about a band like Time Columns is that they’re a great stepping off point to introduce your friends into the post-rock genre.Their music is powerful post-rock done in a friendly and welcoming manner. It’s a heavy album at times, but it’s far from the aggression you see in a band such a Caspian or a Jakob. The band considers the band Battles to be one of their biggest influences and I couldn’t agree more. The influences are literally everywhere on this album.
The production levels over this 7-track 48 minute release are solid across the board. The album sounds gorgeous and is well-engineered and equalized. occasionally I found the guitars to get lost amongst the mix or cymbals felt overpowering but those are forgivable given everything else is aces. This is particularly impressive given that the soundstage for this album is relatively compact. Math-Rock fused with Post-Rock is one of my absolute favorite combinations and I really feel like “Mana” should appeal to a wide array of fans. 9-6-12

Available for $5 on bandcamp: http://timecolumns.bandcamp.com/album/mana