Sparse rock instrumentation and expansive production provide more than ample room for Costello’s sprawling full-length debut, Manifest, to breathe. There is also space in the song structures, which can sometimes clock in at over eight minutes. At times, there’s so much space that it’s rather inviting, as if the listener might crawl into the field of reverb and curl up alongside the songs as they unfold.
For a band that identifies as psychedelic blues rock, the breadth of Manifest is a favorable attribute. The typically slow tempos encourage a sort of loud-speaker spaced-out listening experience, something to be accompanied by floor pillows, or at least a well-weathered sofa. This speaks more to the psychedelic side, of course; the blues element only shows itself in a few key moments over the album. Manifest actually feels more akin to shoegaze music, at least conceptually. It could probably pass on a sonic level, too, if its aforementioned expansiveness were to become lathered in a certain handful of hazy effects.
The Norman-based three-piece band is actually a recent extension of solo artist Clare Costello, whose emotionally-charged lead vocals and songwriting are the core of Manifest. Those familiar with her 2013 solo Halloween EP can expect more of the same heavy atmospherics and soulful vocals. Manifest, however, widens the brisk directness of that release to incorporate an edgier, more free-form band dynamic. Clare’s voice feels at home in its new domain and is often very comfortable sharing the spotlight with Costello’s lead guitar parts.
There are a couple of musical twists on Manifest, like the bright rhythms on “Kids” or the otherworldly vocal harmonies on “Demon.” For the most part, though, the album is best enjoyed as a broad tonal work. While the lead vocals carry a lot of the weight of this LP, they’re just distant enough to allow the songs to sink into the subconscious (with exception to “Yard,” which completely clears the air for some intimate, powerful songwriting).
All of this works in favor of a moody, meditative listen, and if the frequent, indulgent instrumental breaks are any indicator, that’s the aim of this album. It manages to be spacey and intimate without going soft, angsty without being abrasive. The tracks have a tendency to blur together, but that only adds to the smoky, atmospheric soundscape. Manifest is a fine album to drown into for an hour, and there’s plenty of room to go around.
This article was originally written for Literati Press (literatipressok.com). It is archived here with the publisher’s permission.