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I Am The Manic Whale - Gathering The Waters album review

Michael Whiteman’s Reading-based project gathers pace

I Am The Manic Whale - Gathering The Waters album artwork

After crowdfunding this follow-up to their 2015 debut set Everything Beautiful In Time, this Reading quartet have certainly given investors their money’s worth with the sheer volume of musical and lyrical ideas crammed into this hour and a bit. You know you’re in for quite a ride when the album’s first line tells us, ‘He’s got a 14-foot scarf, knows how to ride a giraffe, hear his maniacal laughter.’ The Man With Many Faces delivers it sandwiched between gutsy guitar riffs and fizzing Mark Kelly-ish keyboards, making for a strong opening gambit. Further in, chief songwriter Michael Whiteman gets a little more literal on The Lifeboatmen’s tribute to the titular lifesavers, and The Milgram Experiment’s musings on the infamous 1960s psychological study, featuring stirring melodic passages and instrumental fireworks. It’s patchier on the longest tracks. The 18-minute centrepiece Stand Up and the 13-minute Strandbeest are strident lyrically but the music meanders, seemingly only there to accompany a narrative that needs a more ruthless editor. Still, a 45-minute album’s worth of strong material out of a slightly flabbier 65? You’d buy that for 10 quid.